Beating imposter syndrome
If you have ever felt like you lack the qualifications or like a fraud in the workplace, you’re not alone. What is imposter syndrome and how do you beat it?
Everyone has imposter syndrome at some point in their career, even those at the top. Feeling like you don’t belong in your position and other feelings of inadequacy are experienced as self-doubt and intellectual fraudulence when in reality, the opposite is true.
“Imposter syndrome tends to emerge when you're on the verge or recently landed a new project, client or job – getting out of your comfort zone is not bad at all because it's escalating you to the next level,” said career expert Vicki Salemi.
“A certain level of imposter syndrome is normal, but the key is to not let it overtake your abilities.”
You don’t want to feel like you don’t deserve your job when the reality is you have the right accomplishments, skills and talents. Most people attribute their success to luck, timing, connections, or personality, rather than their abilities.
Remember that luck is the intersection of preparedness and opportunity, and those who are considered lucky really do have the skills to do the job.
Signs of imposter syndrome are struggling with praise, not meeting impossibly high standards or constantly comparing to others.
When imposter syndrome is left unchecked, the consequences can have a lasting effect on work performance and could result in a lost raise, promotion or in the most extreme case, a job.
The feelings that come with imposter syndrome seem crippling, but being able to recognize and reign them in will help propel you forward with confidence.
Signs of imposter syndrome are struggling with praise, not meeting impossibly high standards or constantly comparing to others, for example, and here are tips for what to do once you recognize these:
Talk about it
Voicing your worries and fears often diminishes their effect. Work through these feelings with someone you trust, like a friend, family member, mentor or professional. Once you get to the root of these feelings, you can start to take the steps to overcome them.
Change your mindset
Flip your thoughts with positive self-talk. When challenged with a new opportunity, consider what you’ll learn and your qualifications. Reacting in a positive way to situations will give you a different, positive outcome.
Ask that question anyway
Needing clarification doesn’t mean you lack experience – leaning on others by asking questions is sometimes the best way to get the job done. The answers can be a great way to learn and will clarify concerns about a project so you set yourself up for success.
Don’t fear failure
Mistakes do have consequences, but being allowed to fail is important – great success is often achieved by those who allow themselves to make mistakes. If you do make a mistake, admit that you did sooner rather than later so you can right the path.
Update your resume often with your accomplishments because your work speaks for itself. “Think about all of the testimonials you've got from peers, clients, as well as your boss – this includes technical abilities, but also your soft skills to work through challenging situations and build and nurture relationships,” said Vicki.
“The more you go through it, the quieter imposter syndrome will get, to the point where it becomes a distant shadow you've managed to obliterate.”
“The reality is you have to remind yourself that you wouldn’t be there if the powers at be or management didn’t feel you could do the job,” said executive coach and career strategist Elizabeth Koraca. There will always be someone with more experience and education with better connections, and comparing yourself to them doesn’t mean you don’t deserve your seat at the table.
Put criticism to action
Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, and you will receive negative reviews from time to time. “You want to make sure you’re being true to yourself and realistic,” said Elizabeth. “There’s no such thing as perfect. Take the feedback, put it in action and don’t dwell on it.”
Believe what people say
You may not believe positive feedback, but take it for what it is: you are doing a good job, are qualified and are meant to be there, said Elizabeth.
About the author
Andrea Murad is a New York–based writer. Having worked on both Wall Street and Main Street, she now pursues her passion for words. She covers business and finance, and her work can be found on BBC Capital, Consumers Digest, Entrepreneur.com, FOXBusiness.com, Global Finance and InstitutionalInvestor.com.