You’ve probably experienced it: you’re taking on a new job or task, and that feeling of self-doubt creeps in. Others have remarked on your abilities, but somehow you still think you don’t have the right skills to do the job well. There’s a name for this phenomenon: imposter syndrome. It extends from doubting your own abilities to worrying about whether you can produce high-quality work by a deadline. While it’s difficult to pin down exactly how many people experience this syndrome, studies suggest up to 82% of people have dealt with it at some point.
At Wrk, we know imposter syndrome is real even among talented people—but we also know there are practical ways to support our team and help them overcome it. Here are some ways to help you reach your full potential without falling victim to self-doubt.
What’s imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a thought pattern that leads to self-sabotage. That could mean not applying for positions you don’t think you can handle that would lead to professional growth despite having relevant education, expertise, years of experience, etc.
People with imposter syndrome commonly feel like a “fraud,” as if somehow, they’re faking their abilities while everyone else has it figured out. The fear is that at any moment, your colleagues are going to discover you aren’t the real deal.
While the same factors aren't always at play, it's most often high achievers that will experience this syndrome. As a result, these people will often try to beef up their training or credentials so they can compensate for their own perceived lack of knowledge. At the same time, those who are dealing with imposter syndrome might put in longer hours than everyone else or avoid taking time off they're entitled to, which can eventually lead to employee burnout.
Ways to handle and overcome imposter syndrome
Luckily, if you have imposter syndrome, there are ways to help you deal with it so it stops becoming a professional and personal barrier. We share just some of those ways below.
Break the silence
The first strategy to overcome imposter syndrome may be simply to acknowledge it and to talk about it with someone that you trust. Then you can drill deeper into your feelings to distinguish what's in your head and what's a real challenge.
If you're experiencing feelings of self-doubt that have become a hindrance, you shouldn't keep it to yourself. Many people experience this issue at some point during their careers, so it's not something that's exclusive to you.
Find a trusted friend, colleague or even a mentor that you can talk about the problem with in confidence. They may not be able to help you more deeply analyze your feelings, but at the very least they could confirm that what you're experiencing is common. They may even have overcome it themselves and have some useful tips for you.
Remember that even the simple act of talking through your problems can help you release your pent-up feelings. If you keep them bottled inside, they could manifest in a negative way that's not productive for you or anyone else.
Separate your feelings from facts
Imposter syndrome is essentially your feelings about yourself, which are not always rooted in fact. If you're having thoughts of inadequacy leading to imposter syndrome, then remember the key word here: feelings.
There could be reasons that you doubt yourself and they may have nothing to do with your current job performance. In fact, some of these beliefs may date back to before you were an adult. Perhaps you were put in a situation where you felt like you didn't fit in, despite pressure from family and friends to conform. It could also stem from actual neglect or other factors while you were growing up lending to the emotions you're dealing with now.
It can take some time to change your instilled thinking patterns, but by understanding that imposter syndrome is rooted in emotion and not reality, it can help you begin the process.
Ask yourself these questions: Would I really be where I am today if I was faking it the whole time? Why would I be any less worthy than any of my colleagues who perform similar tasks?
Track your accomplishments and wins
If you have self-doubt, chances are you're dwelling on past experiences that involved rejection or failure. Whether you're consciously haunted by these failures or not, they can lend to the feelings that you're not up to the task.
Many successful professionals will likely have a story about how they lost at some point. The idea is not to be perfect, but to tap into your true potential. But how?
Instead of just having a running list of missteps in your head, try doing the opposite. No doubt you've had some encouraging words from a boss, mentor or even a teacher. Maybe you've won some awards or navigated your team through an especially difficult assignment. Whatever the case, make sure you acknowledge these wins and maybe even write them down.
Keep adding to this list—science says this can actually help you rewire your brain in a positive way, helping you tackle future challenges with more confidence.
When you see all of your personal and professional accomplishments laid out in front of you, you'll hopefully be less likely to believe that you got to where you are right now due to luck and circumstance. Take another look at any credentials/awards/accolades that you've earned over the years and remember that they took hard work and ability to achieve.
Train yourself to say 'yes' to future opportunities
Have you recently turned down an opportunity because you didn't think you had the relevant skills or experience to tackle it? This is a common issue among those who experience imposter syndrome and it can lead to self-sabotage.
It's a shame, because the client or boss asking you to do the job has likely seen your work and has chosen you specifically as the one to fulfill their task based on that. So even if you don't believe you're up to par, others have seen your track record and think otherwise.
This doesn't mean you have to take on the most monumental task just because someone asks. Assess if you have the time and resources to complete it with quality on deadline. Don't compromise on your other responsibilities for the point of saying "yes."
However, carefully consider the opportunity before saying "no" without knowing all of the details and whether you'd be a suitable fit. Taking on new work you were hesitant to in the past can potentially help you reach the next stepping-stone in your career. At the very least, you might learn a new skill to make you more qualified (and confident) for similar opportunities down the road.
Use it to propel yourself forward
Instead of looking at imposter syndrome as purely a hindrance, you can also use it as motivation. You can work harder and excel in spite of it, as long as you stay aware of your limitations (don't overdo it!) and time constraints.
If you can recognize that you're facing imposter syndrome and keep things in perspective, then pat yourself on the back because that takes talent and emotional intelligence (EQ). By using imposter syndrome to your own advantage, you can tackle jobs that are more difficult and prove to yourself and your colleagues that you're up to the task.
Take stock of your tasks and overcome imposter syndrome
Now that we've answered the question, "is imposter syndrome real?" You can rest assured you're not alone. It's something that many others deal with silently. Using the approaches mentioned, you can take control and even overcome imposter syndrome and possibly use it to your advantage.
However, keep in mind that taking on too much work for the sake of doing it is not always a good option. It can lead to producing work that is not satisfactory, which could feed more into your self-doubt.
In situations like these, a co-pilot like the Wrk platform and simple automation can handle your repetitive and time-consuming tasks, letting you focus on bigger projects that contribute positively to your organization’s bottom line.
Check out our resources including reports, webinars, interviews, case studies, and brochures to learn how automation can help you better manage your workload.
Featured Image: Elijah O'Donnell