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Understanding and overcoming impostor syndrome at work

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Understanding and overcoming impostor syndrome at work

Have you ever felt like a fraud, even when you're doing great work? 
Do you feel like you're not worthy of your job or position, and that sooner or later, people will realize it? 
If yes, then you might be experiencing impostor syndrome at work.

In this article, we will discuss impostor syndrome at work, what it is, and how to deal with it. We will also provide tips on overcoming impostor syndrome at work, especially in the workplace or at a new job.

What is impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which a person doubts their abilities and accomplishments and feels like they don't deserve their success. It is often characterized by feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt, anxiety, and feeling like a fraud. People with impostor syndrome tend to attribute their successes to external factors like luck, timing, or other people's help rather than their skills and hard work. 

Interestingly enough, it is more frequent in high-achieving individuals, such as professionals, academics, and entrepreneurs. These people often set high standards for themselves and have a strong desire to succeed, which can lead to self-doubt and anxiety when they feel they fall short of their goals.

Impostor syndrome can be caused by many factors, including upbringing, personality traits, and pressure from society. Some people may have grown up with parents or authority figures who praised perfectionism or placed too much emphasis on achievements. Others may have been criticized or punished for their mistakes or failures, leading them to believe that success is the only acceptable outcome.

Signs and Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome at Work

The signs and symptoms of impostor syndrome at work can vary from person to person, but some common indicators include:

Feeling like a fraud

People with impostor syndrome often feel like they are not qualified or competent enough to perform their job or role. They may believe that their colleagues or superiors have overestimated their abilities and that they don't belong in their current position.

Downplaying achievements

Individuals with impostor syndrome tend to downplay their achievements or attribute them to luck or external factors. They may feel uncomfortable receiving praise or recognition for their work and may even avoid taking credit for their accomplishments.

Fear of failure

People with impostor syndrome may have an intense fear of failure, which can lead them to avoid challenging tasks or taking risks. They may also be perfectionists and set unrealistic expectations for themselves, leading to anxiety and self-doubt. Consequently, both of these can lead to decreased work performance over time. 


Individuals with impostor syndrome may feel like they need to work harder than their colleagues to prove themselves. They may spend long hours at work, sacrifice their personal life, and take on more responsibilities than necessary.

“I had the constant feeling of having to prove myself to my boss and team, to the extent that I got cold sweat when seeing an Email from my boss. I was under constant stress during my lunch break because of the fear of missing a call or email. I ended up cutting my lunch break to 20 min a day and still working long overtime. My body paid it all back with sleeping issues and weight loss.” Quote by someone who was affected by impostor syndrome

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Anxiety and stress

impostor syndrome can cause significant stress and anxiety, which can lead to physical and mental health issues. People with impostor syndrome may experience symptoms such as insomnia (trouble sleeping), headaches, lack of appetite, and depression. 

Dealing with Impostor Syndrome at Work

If you're experiencing impostor syndrome at work, there are several steps you can take to deal with it. Here are some tips:

Recognize and acknowledge your feelings

To address it as a problem you need to see that it is one. So the first step in dealing with impostor syndrome is to recognize and acknowledge your feelings. Understand that it is common to feel self-doubt and anxiety and that it does not mean you are not qualified or competent. Most importantly you are not alone with this feeling.

Recognize your achievements

One effective way to overcome impostor syndrome is to recognize your achievements. Take time to reflect on your accomplishments, both big and small. Make a list of all the things you've achieved in your personal and professional life and praise yourself for the hard work and effort you put into achieving these goals. By focusing on your accomplishments, you'll start to feel more confident in your abilities

Practice self-compassion

Another way to overcome impostor syndrome is to practice self-compassion. Be kind to yourself and treat yourself with the same level of care and understanding that you would offer to a friend. When you make a mistake, try not to beat yourself up about it. Instead, be kind and understanding to yourself. Remember that making mistakes is a natural part of learning and growth.

Reframe your thinking

impostor syndrome often stems from negative self-talk and limiting beliefs. To overcome it, try reframing your thinking. Instead of focusing on your shortcomings, focus on your strengths and capabilities. When you find yourself thinking negatively, rethink those feelings into positive affirmations. For example, instead of thinking "I'm not good enough for this job," think "I am capable and qualified for this job, and I will do my best."

“I could only open up about my feelings after I had somewhat processed them. To my surprise, I only got support and positive affirmation from everyone I talked to. Especially old colleagues gave me fresh thoughts by giving clear examples of my skills and believing in me. My only regret is that I hadn’t talked to anyone sooner and felt alone with my feelings for so long.” Quote by someone who was affected by impostor syndrome

Seek support

Talking to someone about your impostor syndrome can be incredibly helpful in overcoming it. Seek support from friends, family members, or a therapist. You can also seek support from a mentor or colleague who has experienced impostor syndrome before. Sharing your experiences with someone else can help you feel less alone and more supported.

Set realistic goals

Setting realistic goals for yourself can help you overcome impostor syndrome. Instead of setting unrealistic expectations, set goals that are achievable and within your capabilities. Try to break goals down into small victories, this makes them automatically more reachable. Celebrate your progress and achievements along the way. This will help you build confidence in your abilities and overcome feelings of self-doubt.

Look for a mentor

Having a mentor can be incredibly helpful in overcoming impostor syndrome. Look for someone who has experience in your field and can offer guidance and support. A mentor can help you build your skills, set achievable goals, and offer advice and perspective.

Look for evidence

When you feel like an impostor, it can be helpful to look for evidence that proves otherwise. Keep a record of positive feedback, accomplishments, and achievements. This can serve as a reminder of your capabilities and help you overcome impostor syndrome.

Anticipate impostor syndrome to reduce its effects

Finally, anticipating impostor syndrome can help reduce its effects. When you know that impostor syndrome may arise in certain situations or is triggered by certain people, you can prepare yourself to overcome it. Practice the above steps and strategies in advance to help you overcome impostor syndrome when it arises.

Impostor syndrome can be a challenging experience, but it is possible to overcome it. By recognizing your achievements, practising self-compassion, and setting realistic goals, you can build confidence and overcome self-doubt.

We hope this article has provided you with valuable insights into impostor syndrome and how to overcome it. Remember, you are capable of achieving great things, and your success is well-deserved.

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