Your boss is happy with you, your colleagues value your work, you might have even recently got a promotion. Yet you still get this nagging feeling that maybe you’re not smart enough, that you’re one mistake away from people realising that you’re not good at your job. Maybe you feel like your new position at work is going to expose you as ‘fraud’, or that your achievements were all down to pure luck. Don’t worry, you’re not alone, this feeling is commonly known as Imposter syndrome. In this blog I will explain what Imposter syndrome is and some of the ways you can work to overcome this feeling.

Imposter syndrome 

Imposter syndrome simply put is the inability to properly internalize and recognise your successes & achievements. This is often accompanied by the belief that you’re not as successful or knowledgable as others perceive you to be. Even if you are praised for your work, or there is evidence to the contrary this never seems to sink in; the anxiety and insecurity always seem to come creeping back. 

Feeling insecure at work and constantly doubting your knowledge and worth can be a distressing and tiring experience. Nevertheless an estimated 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their lives.

Self doubt from time to time is completely normal, even healthy and can contribute to humility and probably some of your success. Nonetheless when this doubt or anxiety becomes chronic or negatively impacts your life, it is time to do something about it.

How can I feel more secure?  

You have decided that it’s time to do something about this feeling, you want to feel more confident and secure with yourself at work… So what can you do? Awareness and recognition of this feeling is important to combat it. If you’re reading this article and identify with some of the feelings and aspects above, good job, you have already taken the first step!

Below you will find some more exercises you can practise to overcome this feeling.

Investigate your thoughts and beliefs

To overcome Imposter syndrome it is important to investigate and question the beliefs and thoughts that are fueling your anxieties and doubts. Often at the core of imposter syndrome is a negative and persistent belief. Some of these beliefs and thoughts may be quite confronting and challenging at first, but recognizing them will help you in the long term. You can then try to come up with some positive, yet realistic alternatives.

You can ask yourself some of the following the questions to explore this:

  • What beliefs do I hold about myself, others and the world?
  • Is there a particular thought that keeps coming back when I feel insecure?
  • What does it mean to me if I don’t perform as well as I would like to?

Validate yourself

When struggling with imposter syndrome you can struggle to recognise your successes and hold on to that feeling, therefore it is a good exercise to write down three things each day that you are proud of. These can be big, for example such as getting a promotion, or small such as responding to your emails. They can be from the day or also from the past.

Change the way you talk to yourself

We are often our own worst critics. Talking down and criticizing ourselves when we make mistakes. This critical negative inner dialogue does not do much to help us in the short or long term. It can even make you feel down and anxious. Try to be aware of when you are being critical of yourself and instead try talking to yourself as you would to a good friend. Practising self compassion can go a long way to help us feel better and even help us avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

This article provides a nice metaphor of our inner critic and this blog has more information on self compassion.

Adjust your expectations

Take a moment to reflect on what success means for you. Are you only satisfied if your work is completed perfectly, or if you’re the top performer in your department? Maybe once you reach one milestone you immediately set your eyes on the next goal.

Take a moment to be proud of how far you have come. Look back at where you started, would you be happy if you told your past self where you were now? Remind yourself that we are all human and it is not possible to be ‘perfect’. If your definition of success involves high expectations, it might be time to adjust them. Changing your self talk can go a long way to help with this.

Help

Because imposter syndrome often includes the fear of being ‘found out’, it can be hard to open up or talk to someone. Are you struggling with Imposter syndrome? Or do you feel insecure at work? Don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. Would you like to know more about (online) help via NiceDay? Click here for more information.

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Martijn Thomas

Hi, I am Martijn, psychologist at NiceDay. In my spare time I like to produce music, exercise and hangout with friends.

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