- According to a clinical research paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Science, it’s estimated that 70% of the U.S. population has experienced impostor syndrome.
- Employees can express imposter syndrome in various ways, such as acting insecure about their abilities, second-guessing decisions, and being afraid of taking on new challenges.
- Digital technology and social media have made it easier than ever before to compare our success to that of others – perpetuating a cycle of self-doubt.
There’s a certain feeling that isn’t widely recognized. It’s feeling like you’re an actor playing the part of someone qualified enough to do your role — and you start to worry that your performance isn’t convincing enough.
It’s the feeling that your accomplishments aren’t really accomplishments; they’re just the product of dumb luck.
This feeling has a name: Imposter syndrome.
According to a clinical research paper published in the Journal of Behavioral Science, it’s estimated that 70% of the U.S. population has experienced impostor syndrome.
Here’s what you need to know about workplace impostor syndrome and how to move past it.
What is ‘Imposter Syndrome’?
The term was first coined in 1978 by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, who were looking for a better explanation as to why high-achieving women often attributed their success to luck rather than their own hard-earned accomplishment.
“People with imposter syndrome have a sense of inadequacy, dismiss their achievements, and are very critical of themselves” — Dr. Pei-Han Cheng, Center for Counseling and Consultation, St. John’s University (New York City)
When you experience the feeling of imposter syndrome, you start questioning whether or not you’re really capable of the job you’re doing – or the job you’re looking to get.
“People with imposter syndrome have a sense of inadequacy, dismiss their achievements, and are very critical of themselves,” said Dr. Pei-Han Cheng, a psychologist at the Center for Counseling and Consultation at St. John’s University in New York City.
When successful or high-achieving individuals doubt their competence and hold back from taking risks for fear of failure, that is when imposter syndrome becomes detrimental.
Feeling like you’re not qualified, totally incompetent, and a fraud is a debilitating feeling.
What causes people to feel like they’re frauds at work?
Impostor syndrome doesn’t discriminate, and can happen regardless of the level of success a person has achieved in their field.
Employees can express imposter syndrome in various ways, such as acting insecure about their abilities, second-guessing decisions, and being afraid of taking on new challenges.
Digital technology and social media have made it easier than ever before to compare our success to that of others – perpetuating a cycle of self-doubt.
Imposter syndrome has even been dubbed the “workplace anxiety du jour.”
According to Insider, Imposter syndrome can manifest in the workplace as:
- Inability to internalize achievements and downplaying accomplishments
- Fear of being “found out” or being exposed as inexperienced or untalented
- Avoidance of feedback
- A reluctance to ask for help
- Turning down new opportunities
- Second-guessing decisions
- Overworking to the point of burnout to prove you’re “enough”
- Failing to start or finish projects
Imposter syndrome negatively affects organizations.
Impostor syndrome can have far-reaching consequences for not only employees, but their employers and their organizations, too. When high-potential individuals hold back out of fear, it can limit the leadership pipeline and produce underperforming teams.
Feelings of self-doubt are a natural consequence of success, but leaders must combat this within their teams.
Celebrating workers’ incremental progress not only keeps morale high, but it also helps people internalize their success.
Leaders can also foster an environment that promotes candid conversations where people feel comfortable speaking up without fear of being attacked as incompetent.
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome at Work
What can workers do to push past the feeling of imposter syndrome?
1. Take a balanced inventory of your strengths and accomplishments.
Because impostor syndrome stems from an inability to recognize or accept your achievements, it might be helpful to take the time to sit down and purposely spend time thinking about your achievements and why you received them.
Consider your strengths and how you have cultivated and where they have led you in life. Make a list of your strengths and accomplishments and refer back to these when you’re questioning whether you actually deserve to be there.
2. Know that you got the job because you have the skills to do the work.
Your company believes in you, otherwise you wouldn’t be there.
You got hired because you were the best candidate for the job, and you have the experience to show for it.
It’s possible to always be learning and constantly expanding on your already valuable skills, but doubting the skills that got you hired is a negative mindset to have that will need some mental rewiring.
3. Create a support network in your workplace.
Do not isolate yourself at work from receiving accurate and validating feedback from other people. Workers who experience imposter syndrome should work on building relationships with co-workers.
Other people can often normalize your experiences and reassure you that your belief about yourself isn’t accurate.
Regarding feedback from your boss, don’t wait for an annual performance review to get your boss’s assessment of your work. Ask for feedback on what you’ve done well and ask for what you could improve upon.
Once you’ve built a trusted network with your coworkers, you won’t be afraid to ask your coworkers for guidance if you’re unsure how to tackle an assignment. Instead of getting stuck feeling like you’re an imposter, ask your coworkers for help if you are unsure of what to do.