How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace

How many times have you sat in a meeting with a good idea...only you never share it? Alternately, how many times have you sat in a meeting and dominated the conversation out of fear that someone else might make you look bad? Have you ever received a promotion and felt as though your boss had made a mistake giving it to you?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be all too familiar with imposter syndrome in the workplace.

Studied by psychologist Pauline Rose Clance in 1978 and popularized by the Lean In movement in 2013, imposter syndrome refers to a feeling. Without logical founding, this feeling crosses demographic lines and levels of experience to assert that you’re incapable. It’s insecurity at its finest, causing you to doubt yourself relative to the assumed skills of your peers.

What makes imposter syndrome destructive is its ability to get in the way of your success. Rather than speak up, you keep quiet. Rather than chase the opportunity to truly love what you do, you hang back. Rather than grow, you stay the same.

Recognizing the signs of imposter syndrome and stopping its destructive thoughts in their tracks may not happen overnight, but a little practice goes a long way. Here are a few approaches to help in overcoming imposter syndrome in the workplace.

Have an Honest Conversation With Yourself

You are the only one in control of how you feel. And the truth of the matter is that feelings are just that: feelings. They don’t have to be founded in logic and data to be powerful; they function free from facts.

In moments of doubt fueled by imposter syndrome, it’s important to take notice of what’s dominating your thoughts. More importantly, instead of letting them run rampant, counter them with questions.

Is this true?

What are the facts?

Why do I feel this way?

You’re likely to find that in doing so, the dominating motivator behind your imposter syndrome ends up being fear. Ironically enough, it can be easier sometimes to tell yourself you’re not capable of doing something than to admit that being afraid of taking the plunge is the only thing holding you back.

Take Note of Your Accomplishments (and Failures)

Never underestimate the power of documentation! For the sake of readily discounting imposter syndrome thoughts as they occur, keep a record of everything you’ve accomplished while on the job. Nothing is too small or off limits if you feel any sense of pride from the work you’ve done.

And while it may seem counterintuitive, keeping tabs on your failures can also help in changing your mindset. Failing is a good thing. To fail means you took a chance, put in the time, and made an effort.

More importantly, it’s completely normal to not hit the ball out of the park 24/7. Anyone who tells you otherwise is likely grappling with her own imposter syndrome-based insecurities.

Join a Support Group at the Office

For all the discomfort imposter syndrome can bring, there’s a sort of comfort to be found in knowing you’re not alone. The feeling is universal.

Find your people at work and start talking. Having a third party to bounce ideas and doubts off of can help you easily discern what’s founded in fact versus fiction. The support and encouragement of others might just help you overcome your hesitations and make a move.

Quit the Comparison Game

Everyone looks good on paper. All you need to is browse through a sampling of LinkedIn profiles to make that readily apparent. How people market themselves online or otherwise is supposed to be just that, a highlight reel of accomplishments and experiences.

The thing is, it’s not the whole story. More importantly, it’s not your story. Taking time to compare yourself to others only takes away from the time you could be spending on achieving your own goals, so in moments of ultimate self-doubt, disconnect. Don’t fuel the fire with more untruths.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

No one knows what they’re doing and that’s okay. Part of the “fun” and growth comes from figuring it out along the way.

Fake it ‘til you make it by dressing for the job you want or power posing before an important presentation. Exuding confidence outwardly is a step in the right direction towards convincing yourself of just how capable you really are.

By Andrew Patricio

March 18, 2019