Imposter Syndrome at Work

Imposter Syndrome

What is Imposter Syndrome 

What happens when your feedback loop breaks? When the external success you achieve is not mirroring your internal feeling of accomplishment and self-worth? 

Those who are high achieving but consistently doubt their ability often suffer from imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome is reaching a level of success that looks empowering from the outside but feels fraudulent on the inside. Self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and procrastination are troubling symptoms of imposter syndrome. Many individuals experience these feelings, and those who suffer should not shoulder the burden alone. To help reduce the experience of imposter syndrome amongst their staff, employers and companies alike can work to create an environment that helps to promote inclusivity and support. Individuals can utilize a few tricks to help recognize and reduce the symptoms of imposter syndrome in its earliest stages. 

Who Suffers From Imposter Syndrome 

Imposter syndrome is not an absence of self-worth. Imposter syndrome is a product of the historic lack of diversity and representation within the workplace. 

In the Harvard Business Review Article “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome,” Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey attest that for many women in the workplace, “feeling like an outsider is not an illusion- but instead the result of systemic bias and exclusion.” 

High-achieving individuals belonging to minorities (such as women and BI-POC) possess a heightened propensity to experience imposter syndrome. The lack of representation of intersectional identities in the workplace creates an absence of belonging for those who do exist. Companies can work to promote inclusivity by championing the success of already employed minority identities. Amplify their voices, validate their ideas and trust in their skill and capability. Additionally, businesses can seek qualified and underrepresented applicants by working with niche staffing agencies such as Talentoasis to find the RIGHT candidate. Those experiencing imposter syndrome can alleviate their feelings associated with it by first understanding and placing their emotions and then utilizing their self-doubt as ammunition for success. 

Ways to Combat Imposter Syndrome

Those suffering from imposter syndrome can use their past experiences of adversity to work through present feelings of self-doubt and fraud. The Harvard Business Review article “You’re Not Powerless in the Face of Imposter Syndrome” discusses Boyden Global executive search firm’s managing director, Keith Dorsey exercise of self-reflection to combat the fear of inadequacy. Dorsey instructs that you must first identify a challenging situation you have experienced, then reflect on how you overcame the obstacles in your way and then apply those same skills and steps for success to future projects or tasks. 

Pinpointing specific challenges and ways you overcame them will help you avoid dismissing your past successes as just “sheer luck.” While re-living former adversity is challenging, the more you reflect on your past successes, the more confidence you will gain in your present ability. Through reflection, Dorsey suggests that you will be able to re-cultivate the strengths you have foraged in the past and also gain a stronger sense of self-worth. 

Bond with Those Who Share Similar Experiences and Identities

There is no power like community. Finding those who share in your identity and have achieved success can help you to build confidence and acknowledge your achievements. Finding community will aid in your ability to further understand your feelings, help validate your accomplishments and motivate you to continue achieving by showing you a mirrored example of success. 

Try New Things and Permit Yourself to Learn

Herminia Ibarra of the London Business School invented the concept of Identity play. Identity Play involves trying new activities that push you outside your comfort zone. Roles that force you to be steadfast in a position of learning. Acknowledging that you may need to improve at a new skill early on. Do you need a deeper understanding of the technology utilized in your business? Spend a couple of hours a week learning to code or learn about SEO. Not only will identity play help you to gain confidence by trying new things and gaining a new skill, but it also helps you to practice being patient and understanding with yourself.

Avoid People Who Feed into Your Self-doubt

The worst thing you can do when trying to overcome imposter syndrome is to feed into the comments of those who doubt your abilities. There will always be naysayers that exist. When they are unavoidable, try to seek guidance from a trusted peer or mentor. For example, if you once had confidence in an idea of yours and a co-worker has since convinced you otherwise, leading to self-doubt, propose the idea to a mentor or peer you trust instead. Help combat the internalization of negative feedback by deeming it as an opinion. Everyone has one, but not all are valuable. 

Know Your Worth

Learn to walk away from the opinions of those who will always find fault or discredit your work. If your work environment is continuously dismissive of your abilities, consult a talent acquisition management team to find a work environment that wants to see you succeed. 

 While imposter syndrome can feel like the weight of the world on your shoulders, through reflection, community and learning, you can begin to acknowledge your success for what it truly is: entirely deserved and earned. 

Megan. C

All in good time

Research Writer, Talent Acquisition