Tips for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
Do you keep asking yourself, “Am I good enough to be here?”
Despite impostor syndrome first appearing in a 1978 paper published by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance & Suzanne Imes, we’re just beginning to understand how it affects men and women alike. As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, we want to help you make sense of your own impostor feelings to help you thrive in your career and your life.
What Imposter Syndrome Feels Like
Impostor syndrome might sound like a diagnosis but it’s something that a majority of us face at some point in our lives. It tends to manifest itself as self-rejection, a feeling that you’re not as qualified as others perceive you to be despite being a successful and effective professional. You don’t feel like you’ve earned your success, which makes it difficult to accept your achievements.
What It Is
When looking at what impostor syndrome is, we realize that it is triggered by certain situations, such as comparing your work to someone else’s or receiving harsh criticism. While it might not always be present, it does persist despite having several achievements under your belt. Both men and women can be equally affected by impostor feelings, regardless of their level of success. Fortunately, this is a personal mindset that can be rewired and managed with discipline and self-awareness.
What It Is Not
It’s important to clarify that imposter syndrome is not a diagnosable mental health condition; however, it can affect your overall mental health if it’s not managed correctly. It can even lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-confidence. While some self-doubt can potentially work in your favor to help you evolve as an individual, excessive self-doubt may be a sign of impostor syndrome creeping in.
What Causes Impostor Syndrome Feelings?
Cultural Pressures in the Workplace
Impostor syndrome is a cycle that tends to be paired with success. When you reach a certain level of success or achievement and you feel that you don't deserve that success, impostor syndrome can set in.
In today’s society, it seems like those who work non-stop are the ones who benefit the most. With this comes the pressure to be the best and outwork your peers. As a result, you compare yourself to others and view any flaws with a level of scrutiny that creates and feeds your impostor syndrome.
Another similar cause of imposter syndrome is perfectionism. It can make you feel like your work is never done or never good enough, sometimes creating more work for others and impeding progress altogether. The more you focus on reaching the “perfect” outcome, the higher your chances of experiencing burnout, making you a less efficient professional.
Feeling Inadequate Among Peers
With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, there was a massive and almost immediate digital response. Compared to digital natives, who grew up with ubiquitous technology, millions of Americans who do not share the same computer competency struggled to adapt to a virtual workspace.
While this did not take away from any previous achievements, the shift likely made them question if they have the skills to perform. This is an example of how quickly one can experience doubt and a host of insecurities.
In addition, remote work and restructuring organizations caused by the pandemic likely contributed to imposter syndrome.
Not having the same formal training as your peers can lead to self-doubt as well as a decrease in self-confidence. Being a self-taught professional with no formal education can undoubtedly cause you to second guess your abilities, especially if your colleagues have specialized degrees or certifications that have helped them grow in their positions.
Lack of Representation
Feeling like a fraud can be magnified if you’re the “only one” in your team. Being the only person of color or having a unique background from the rest of your peers can enhance those voices in your head telling you you’re not good enough or that you don’t belong.
Additionally, without diverse role models or potential mentors in place for minorities, employees can become disengaged in their work and their professional growth.
According to LeanIn.org, “everyone benefits from opportunity and fairness. Diversity efforts are about ensuring employees of all genders, races, and backgrounds have access to the same opportunities.” This is one of the many reasons why representation, diversity, and inclusion are essential within organizations.
Impostor syndrome will always be there, but it can get better.
6 Tips for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
When you’re stuck in your impostor syndrome daze, it’s important to remember that it’s a mindset, not a diagnosis. Nevertheless, you can get through it—here’s how.
Know you’re not the only one. Impostor syndrome affects everyone equally, from graduate students to CEOs. Feeling like an impostor doesn’t mean you are one. So if you’re ever in doubt about your performance or where you stand, voice your concerns with a trusted peer or advisor. Sometimes, just talking it out can quiet the nagging imposter feeling.
Find your community. Go one step further and find your community! Connect with peers and experienced professionals in a collaborative way. Be vulnerable, learn something new, and bask in your network of like-minded people who share your interests or professional background.
Minimize the comparisons. This is likely one of the more common causes of impostor syndrome. The next time you start comparing your work to someone else’s, remember that your success is in your hands and you can make it happen.
Be okay with asking questions. Our biggest downfall is thinking we need to know everything at any given moment. As soon as you realize that you don’t have to have all of the answers and you begin asking questions, you’ll learn to rely on your colleagues and others for help, minimizing your chances of burnout in the process.
Find value in feedback. Feedback is the stepping stone to growth. It’s how you understand your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on what makes you feel empowered and redirect any negativity to improving yourself based on that feedback.
Fill in your skill gaps. If feeling like you’re not well-versed in a particular subject makes you feel like a fraud, it can help to reflect on your skill set to see where you can improve. Then, as you learn more and hone your craft, you’ll build the confidence to thrive!
Join the Discussion
On April 30th, 2021, the University of Las Vegas, Nevada Digital Skills Bootcamps hosted an Impostor Syndrome Panel titled “Am I Good Enough to Be Here?”
Panelists discussed what it means to feel like an impostor at work, how it affects our interactions with others, and how to make it through to the other side of paralyzing self-doubt. Watch the entire panel discussion here.
*If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357. The service is confidential, free, and open 24-hours a day, 365 days a year.