Overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace with these 5 tips
Ever turned down a dream job, or felt like you were hired on luck? If you’ve ever felt this way, you’re not alone. In fact, 70% of employees will experience an illogical sense of being a fraud – popularly termed “imposter syndrome” – at some point in their lives. And it doesn’t just affect the general population. Famous high achievers, like Academy-award winner Tom Hanks and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, have also struggled with imposter syndrome.
The good news is that you can overcome imposter syndrome. The bad news? If left unaddressed, it can trigger dips in job satisfaction and performance, thwart your job trajectory, as well as extend into workplace anxiety and burnout.
In order to overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace, it is important to recognize your own achievements and build confidence in yourself. Here, we share 5 tips to help you combat imposter syndrome and realize your full potential.
Understanding imposter syndrome
“I have written 11 books, but each time I think ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” -Maya Angelou
Referring to people who keep doubting their achievements and fear that they will be “discovered” as being a fraud, the psychological term “imposter syndrome” was first coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. Interestingly, it is very common among high achievers who are unable to internalize their success.
What are the causes of imposter syndrome?
An overwhelming number of imposter syndrome’s victims are female – especially women of color, although anyone can suffer its effects. As psychotherapist and executive coach Brian Norton describes in this BBC article, “Women, women of colour, especially black women, as well as the LGBTQ community are most at risk…When you experience systemic oppression or are directly or indirectly told your whole life that you are less-than or undeserving of success and you begin to achieve things in a way that goes against a long-standing narrative in the mind, imposter syndrome will occur.”
Toxic workplaces also exacerbates the problem of imposter syndrome. Rampant competitiveness often provides the breeding ground for self-doubt and anxiety, as well as perfectionism – which fuels people’s tendency to scrutinize their own achievements. Particularly prevalent in the finance industry, dysfunctionally competitive work environments can lead to feelings of inadequacy and manifest imposter tendencies.
The ubiquity of social media has also paved the way for a whole host of mental health and psychological conditions. While it has indeed led to greater global interconnectivity than ever before, this age of “influencers” – where people curate and showcase their best moments via filters and photoshop – can warp how we perceive ourselves and others. Instagram can be particularly triggering (it’s not easy to keep up with the Kardashians’ lavish lifestyle), which may explain why Millennials and young professionals are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome.
How to overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace
It’s a human thing to feel inadequate at times, especially when we compare ourselves to our friends and colleagues or hear unwarranted comments. However, it helps to equip yourself with a set of coping strategies if you’re battling imposter tendencies on a regular basis. So, without further ado, here are 5 tips to overcoming imposter syndrome and embracing yourself as you are:
1. Acknowledge it
First, understand that it’s not shameful to feel less than perfect. Acknowledge it, admit that it holds you back, and have an open conversation about it without the stigma attached to this common phenomenon. And remember: imposter syndrome is just a form of fear and worry. It might also be reassuring to know that 85% of what people worry about will never happen.
2. Avoid comparing yourself to others
62% of people say social media makes them feel inadequate about their own life. Recognize your own achievements and successes instead of how you measure up to your peers’ curated LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram posts. When we compare ourselves to friends and colleagues, or even “successful-looking” people on the street, we’re most likely comparing ourselves to people who have also felt like imposters at least once in their lives. It might help to consider establishing digital boundaries or even undergoing a social media detox.
3. Reflect on your successes
Consider making it a habit to keep track of your successes. Just as you’ll occasionally miss the target, there will also be moments when you hit the bullseye. Celebrate your successful projects and relish in the praises you receive from others.
You may even want to keep a journal and write down your top accomplishments periodically in order to track your success journey. And the next time a colleague pays you a compliment at work, try to say “thank you” instead of rejecting it. Simply saying “thank you” acknowledges the person who was nice enough to give you praise and also allows you to fully embrace the moment.
4. Develop self-awareness
Boost self-awareness so that you’re able to see the early warning signs of imposter syndrome displacing your thoughts, and replace your inner critic with a confidence-building mindset. Of course, it takes time and effort to develop self-awareness. We highly suggest practicing mindfulness at work, as it helps you stay intentionally present, versus worrying about what might happen or something that has happened in the past.
5. Seek help
If you’re finding it hard to challenge paralyzing self-doubt and negative thoughts, there is no shame in seeking help from a therapist or counselor. Worried that it will cost an arm and a leg? It might pay to check if your company’s Employee Assistance Program includes counseling services.
On the lookout for workplace mental health resources?
As an employee benefits specialist, our team endeavors to shed light on a wide range of workplace mental health topics like mental fitness, anxiety and depression, and workplace toxicity. If you’d like to have a chat with an expert about employee benefits and mental health coverage, feel free to give us a call today.
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