imposter syndrome at work

How to overcome imposter syndrome at work

If you’ve ever questioned whether you really deserve to be where you are as a professional or any successes you’ve achieved throughout your career, you might have a case of imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is the little voice of negativity and self-doubt in your ear that whispers, ‘You’re a fraud.’ ‘You can’t do this’. ‘You’re kidding yourself’ or ‘What if I can’t give them the results they’re looking for?’. If you suffer from imposter syndrome, you probably attribute your success to external factors that have nothing to do with your skill, talent or experience. Instead, you believe you’ve just been lucky, in the right place at the right time, or that other people are the reason for your achievements. 

When taking on a new professional challenge, like leading a new project, managing a team, starting a new position, or starting your very own side-hustle, it’s only natural to have moments of self-doubt when you think ‘Can I really do this?’ 

The problem with imposter syndrome is that it can be crippling. It can hold you back from taking action to progress your career, whether that be applying for a higher position or taking the leap into starting your own business. If you manage to take the next step, imposter syndrome then makes you question whether you can actually do the thing you set out to do. 

The good news is that if you can relate to these feelings, you’re in good company. Imposter syndrome is particularly common among high achievers, creatives and minority groups. Even some of the most successful women, including Sheryl Sandberg, Maya Angelou and Tina Fey, have said they experience imposter syndrome. 

While that niggling, nagging voice might always be in your head, there are ways to help shut it up so you can go about your business with the confidence you need to succeed. 

Don’t let it hold you back.


These are 9 effective ways you can learn to overcome imposter syndrome at work.

  1. Squash any negative self-talk you might indulge yourself in.
    Recognise when your inner imposter is trying to work its way into your self-confidence. Rather than indulging the self-doubt and negative thoughts that are part-and-parcel with imposter syndrome, try to replace them with more positive affirmations such as: ‘I am worthy of success’, ‘I work hard and I deserve this’ or ‘I am smart and confident and I can do this’.
  2. Get a professional mentor.
    Having another professional that you advice and can talk to about your feelings can help you figure out whether your self-doubt is appropriate or whether you’re letting your imposter syndrome get the best of you. A good professional mentor won’t stroke your ego but will be able to help you identify your strengths and whether you have a legitimate reason to be concerned about your capabilities.
  3. Make a list of all your past achievements.
    Another way to assess your strengths in an honest, unbiased and realistic manner is to write down all of your past achievements. Next, reflect on all the work you put in to make them happen. Chances are, there’s more to your success than pure chance and luck, and it can be good to remind yourself of that.
  4. Trust in other peoples opinions of you.
    If people hire you, it’s because they see value you in your work. If you’re offered a promotion, it’s because you deserve it. Don’t doubt the intelligence of those who have promoted you, hired you, or offered you opportunities. It’s very unlikely that they’ve made a mistake and, in the real world, you won’t be given a professional opportunity just because someone is trying to be nice to you.
  5. Demonstrate your professionalism.
    If you’re a freelancer or are trying to launch your own business, it’s common to worry about how prospective clients will perceive you and if they will be happy with your services. If you’re just starting out, using pre-prepared templated documents and emails and automated project management tools can show clients you’re serious about your business. Being organised and setting up business processes like this before-hand can reduce the level of self-doubt you might feel without them, because there’s less chance to second-guess yourself.
  6. Overcome your self-imposed need to achieve perfection. 
    Sure, you can strive towards perfection, but give yourself a break. No one is perfect. Even the most rich, successful and famous people are works in progress.
  7. Avoid people who claim your success as their own.
    You know the ones. Whether they’re a boss or a colleague, if they steal your best ideas and claim them as their own, they’re not uplifting, empowering people that will help you thrive professionally. Even when you know the idea was yours, this behavior can drain your self-confidence and feed into your imposter syndrome by making you question your own thoughts and abilities.
  8. Give yourself some credit.
    It’s fine to acknowledge how others have helped you get where you are today, but remember that they’re not solely responsible for your success. I’d be willing to bet you put some work in yourself as well.
  9. Change your language. 
    Women tend to downplay their opinions in work settings and say things like ‘I feel’ or ‘It might just be me, but…’. Back yourself. Have the confidence to speak your mind and explain your position. Make a habit of this and you’ll even start to believe yourself. 

Any time you feel like your inner imposter is getting the best of you at work, in business or in life, come back to these strategies. It might take some practice, but eventually, you will learn how to believe in your ability to be successful.

Be brave, be bold. You deserve and are so worthy of any success you achieve. 

Image Credits: via Pexels

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