This article brings together 11 essential tips to overcome Impostor Syndrome and live better on a daily basis.
“The exaggerated esteem for my work makes me very uncomfortable.” Albert Einstein
Let’s get into the thick of it. Do you have a poor image of yourself? Do you have that little inner voice telling you that the results you have achieved are not deserved? Whether they come from deception or luck? Are you afraid of being unmasked for who you really are: this incompetent person who is here by mistake?
Chances are you have impostor syndrome. And you are not alone! This syndrome affects the whole of society, from the employee to the employer, woman or man. Patricia even tells us that two out of five celebrities consider themselves imposters.
Thus, for the anecdote, Albert Einstein said: “Exaggerated esteem for my work makes me very uncomfortable.”
And in another category, actress Emma Watson confided in an interview: “Now that I am recognized for my talents, I feel very uncomfortable, I constantly blame myself for it, and I feel to be a sham.”
What is Impostor syndrome?
This syndrome leads us to doubt ourselves and our professional abilities, quite simply. So you might feel like you don’t deserve the job and are an impostor. Most often, it makes us believe that we are lying to our colleagues about our ability to do our job well.
But the symptoms don’t stop there:
- You have the feeling that you owe your professional development to a simple stroke of luck, and not to your skills and abilities.
- You base your self-esteem on your perception of your own abilities.
- You think you have to be perfectionist to produce satisfying work.
- You sacrifice your own well-being to work harder.
- You feel apart or you feel the need to isolate yourself so that no one discovers your “secret”.
- Your mental health has suffered from overwork and burnout.
- More often than not for no good reason, you feel like you could be “discovered” at any moment and eventually people will learn that you are not as competent as you seem.
[Also read: Managing Anxiety Naturally: The Power of Meditation]
If you find yourself in one or more of these statements, know already that you are not an isolated case. In fact, according to our research, nearly two-thirds (62%) of knowledge workers around the world report having experienced impostor syndrome.
In addition, this syndrome can affect any type of person without distinction and is not reserved for newcomers to the business. Surprisingly, employees in positions of responsibility are more likely to suffer from it than others.
The characteristics of impostor syndrome
Everyone experiences this syndrome differently, but here are some common characteristics:
- Inability to assess one’s skills and competencies realistically
- The propensity to attribute success to external factors, such as luck
- The fear of not being good enough
- The tendency to scuttle our own chances of success
- Feeling out of step with other team members
- Overwork and overwork
- Being overly demanding of yourself
- The lack of self-esteem
- Intense fear of failure
- The loss of self-confidence
Are you affected by impostor syndrome?
Do you ever doubt your skills? Knowing how to question yourself and wanting to progress is essential. To find out if you are affected by impostor syndrome at work, analyze yourself with hindsight and lucidity.
Here are some professional situations that may suggest that you lack confidence in yourself at work, that you are hard on yourself, and that you are affected by impostor syndrome at work:
- You don’t understand why you got your job, or your promotion, you think you were lucky because you don’t think you are up to it.
- When you achieve something, you find it difficult to hold yourself responsible for it, to be satisfied with your work and to congratulate yourself.
- You are often afraid of not succeeding in accomplishing the most important tasks correctly, even if they are not new to you and even if you have already succeeded in them. You systematically put pressure on yourself for fear of failing.
- When you receive compliments, you have the feeling that people are trying to enhance you or please you, and you doubt the sincerity of your interlocutor.
- You dare not ask for help when you need it, you are afraid of being judged incompetent.
- In the event of a remark concerning your work, even suggestive, you think about it and rethink it for a long time, it “works” on you. You blame yourself for not being perfect.
- You are afraid that your superiors or your colleagues will discover that you are not as competent as they think. You do your best not to make any mistakes, and stay behind to take no risks.
- You think that your work is never good enough, even when you have worked hard and perfectly succeeded in your challenges.
- You find that your colleagues are more competent than you, even if you perform equivalent functions.
If you find yourself in any of these situations, consider our tips below for successfully overcoming impostor syndrome at work.
[Also read: How to overcome the fear of death?]
How does impostor syndrome manifest itself?
In a few words, here is how this widespread phenomenon is expressed, before sharing with you 11 tips to overcome Impostor Syndrome a little more every day:
- You work like a dog because you don’t want to be caught out (and this is all the more true when you take up your new duties).
- You create conditions for self-sabotage, especially by procrastinating, because deep down success scares you.
- Did you say success? Good for you! You are anyway unable to take credit for it because it is always due to an external factor.
- You know that it’s only a matter of time before those around you realize your imposture… which you don’t doubt (even though doubt invades you on a daily basis).
How to overcome the impostor syndrome and work?
Do you have impostor syndrome? Do not panic, you have many options to get out of it! First of all, remember that you are not alone, so not the only person having these kinds of thoughts. Anyone who has the heart to succeed may one day feel like they don’t measure up, and over time, that mindset can turn into impostor syndrome.
Fortunately, with time and effort, you can overcome this ordeal. Here are some tips to help you:
1. Accept your professional profile
To overcome the impostor syndrome, it is first necessary to accept one’s professional profile.
To do this, look your professional profile in the face and objectively identify the elements that represent you.
- Identify your strengths and assets, what you are used to doing or what you can consider yourself competent for.
- Recognize your potential weaknesses. Think about how to fill them if these weak points bother you: training? Help from your colleagues? Coaching?
It is by clearly visualizing these elements that you will be able to know on which axes it would be preferable to direct your efforts to overcome what is wrong and improve your weak points.
2. Free yourself from negative thoughts
Imposter syndrome is also synonymous with negative thoughts. To overcome it, it is therefore essential to free yourself from negative thoughts.
Ask yourself what are the tasks, missions or situations that make you anxious, and try to identify the reason(s) for which you experience these fears. You will certainly see some recurring negative thoughts appear.
🔹 Examples of negative thoughts contributing to impostor syndrome at work:
- “If he sees that I don’t know how to use this software, he will think that I am useless. »
- “I would never make it. »
- “If I screw up, it’s over. »
- “I’m the worst on the team. »
You must learn to silence all the negative thoughts that cross your mind, and to speak to yourself with kindness. Turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts.
🔹 Examples of negative thoughts turned into positive thoughts:
- “Once he explains to me how to use this software, I will be able to manage on my own. »
- “It’s not going to be easy and it’s scary, but I’m going to do my best to get out of it. »
- “This project has important stakes, I will prepare it carefully. »
- “There is no reason for me to be inferior to others, I have my strong points and my weak points like any other person. »
Learn to let go at work. You won’t get it right at first, but the key is to avoid giving in to anxiety, and build your self-confidence gradually.
To help you relax, you can adopt certain techniques to fight against stress (nap, meditation, relaxation).
3. The facts, nothing but the facts
When we are affected by impostor syndrome, we feel like we are not good professionals. However, these thoughts are often rooted in our fears and not in reality. The best way to combat this syndrome is therefore to differentiate between these ideas that assail you and the concrete.
The Conscious Leadership Group talks about “checking the facts against the testimonials”. Facts are observable truths, which one could film using a camera, for example; as for the testimonies, they correspond to your personal interpretation of the facts.
You will certainly have a hard time keeping your brain from filming, but you can always cling to reality. The next time you find yourself in a situation where you have these kinds of thoughts, check them against the facts. For example, if you rehash your last speech in a meeting, think back instead to what your colleagues said.
Fight the impostor syndrome by contrasting it with tangible elements. Regularly take time to reflect on your thoughts and examine the facts. You will be able to identify the concrete steps to take to let go of what you have no control over.”— A MEMBER OF THE ASANA TEAM
4. Identify the problem, check and move on
Just because we interpret an event a certain way without it being factual doesn’t make our feelings any less important. This is not about ignoring our emotions, but about recognizing our bad thoughts and understanding that they are not abnormal, then getting rid of them if they are out of step with reality.
I have a very simple operation: I identify the problem, I check and I move on. To regain control over our feelings and verify their veracity, the whole trick is to spot the characteristics of impostor syndrome, put words to the problem and acknowledge that it exists. I then try to find out if I’ve found a real way to improve or if it’s a stupid lack of self-confidence, which generally helps me to convince myself of the subjective nature of my thoughts, without denying them.. When I’m done with my reflection, I move on. I do not hide my feelings, but I choose to move forward for the rest of the day and to accomplish my objectives by taking them into account.—ANDREW
5. Communicate your thought states
This syndrome also has the disadvantage of reinforcing the feeling of isolation. However, as we indicated before, it is a common phenomenon in the world of work. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of knowledge workers worldwide have experienced impostor syndrome. So the next time you have dark thoughts, don’t hesitate to tell someone!
Communicating about the evil that gnaws at you has two advantages:
- Instead of keeping your emotions to yourself, you can face them and stop caring. If you keep your thoughts a secret, impostor syndrome will only get worse and harder to deal with. Sharing these emotions with others helps you to recognize that you have this syndrome and to overcome it.
- You might meet colleagues who have suffered from the same disease. Unfortunately, this syndrome is common in the world of work, and your confidant may well have been a victim of it too. The positive thing is that you will feel less alone in this situation.
When I arrived at Asana, I grew from a team of 50 to over 1,000 people. I was convinced that it would be too much for me, but all my doubts, my fears and my pretenses flew away when I discussed it with my team. My colleagues went out of their way to support me, tell me about their own experiences, lift my spirits and encourage me.”—ROSE
6. Look for evidence
If after becoming aware of your thoughts and expressing them you still don’t have a solution, try to find evidence to quell them. Since impostor syndrome is generally not based on any concrete element, all you have to do is focus on the hard facts to fight against this harmful state of mind.
Do you feel like you never finish your work on time? Take a look at your latest projects and work to see if this assumption holds true. If so, you will have identified an area for improvement. Otherwise, systematically oppose these facts to the little voice that is heard in your head to criticize you.
Don’t have an easy way to review your work? Try using a work management tool like Asana. This type of tool helps you organize your activities, look back on your previous projects and lay the foundations for success for the next initiatives.
When doubt invades me, I try to find proof of my singularity, my talent and my degree of competence. If necessary, I rely on my past experiences or the opinions of others. When I feel that people think of me as not qualified or competent enough, I oppose concrete evidence to these thoughts. If the criticism is justified, I will think about possible solutions to improve the situation.”— A MEMBER OF THE ASANA TEAM
7. Reframe your thoughts
Our thoughts hold immeasurable power. Our approach to the world has the ability to shape our reality, for good or bad.
If you often tend to put yourself down, ask yourself what your monologues sound like and try to revise the way you talk to yourself. This technique may not seem to have an immediate effect, but over time it will help you approach different situations in a more positive light.
For example, the next time you make a mistake, rather than feeling sorry for the situation, tell yourself that you can do better next time. By reframing your speech internally, you are reprogramming your brain to be more benevolent to you.
Reviewing my language has been a great help to me. Instead of using traditional passive phrases, such as “I helped”, “I supported” or “I coordinated”, for example, I now use stronger language and assured: “I directed”, “I collaborated with”, “I associated myself with”…”—KATHERINE
8. Find yourself a mentor
To combat impostor syndrome, actively strive to improve your specialized and complementary skills. Thus, each time the little voice comes to whisper to you that you do not have the level in such and such an area, you can tell him that you are doing what is necessary to remedy it.
And to achieve this, there is a very good trick: the mentor. In your company or your area of expertise, look for someone who can give you practical advice and support you (an experienced manager you admire working in your own organization or in another company, for example).
Talk to a respected colleague in his field and make sure that you can learn from your collaboration. If you trust her, talk to her about how you feel about impostor syndrome. When I discussed it with my mentor, he was surprised to learn it, which gave me a lot of reassurance about my abilities.”—JOHN
9. Learn from your colleagues
Another common symptom of this syndrome is comparing yourself to your peers and feeling like you’re doing less well than them. If we all tend to compare ourselves to others, you have several solutions to review your way of thinking.
The next time you are tempted to compare yourself to your colleagues, take a step back and take advantage of their expertise to evolve. It’s a fact, some members of your team will outperform you in one or more areas. However, this does not make you less competent: it is an opportunity for you to learn from them. On your side, you too can share certain talents and skills with your counterparts to help them advance in their careers.
Rather than denigrating myself, I prefer to take as an example the achievements of others, which I keep in the back of my mind. I try to see their work as a tool to improve myself, not as a benchmark against which to compare myself. Sometimes all that’s missing from high-quality work is simply having the right outline. And most of the time, our colleagues were also inspired by others!”—ROBERT
10. Anticipate impostor syndrome to reduce its effects
Over time, you may identify some triggers for this syndrome. In this case, prepare for this situation in advance to combat its effects.
For example, let’s say you experience impostor syndrome frequently when completing your self-assessment during your team performance cycle. If such a level of thinking makes you uncomfortable, try keeping a list of everything you accomplish over the quarter or year in your collaboration software. You will have already written your self-assessment without even having to worry about it when the time comes to assess your performance.
The secret is to recognize the existence of our fears, without letting them take over. I am anxious at the idea of speaking in meetings, I am well aware of that. But when I decide not to say anything, I wonder why: is it because I have nothing to add or because I’m afraid of ridicule? In the second case, I accept my fear and act on it instead of waiting for the day when I can overcome it.”— WILLINGNESS
11. Sing your own praises
Sometimes the best way to beat impostor syndrome is to face it. The next time you feel like you did a good job, let them know! If you feel confident, share your success with your team. But if that’s a bit too much for you at the moment, turn instead to someone outside, such as a friend or relative.
And this advice is not only valid when you produce good results! Another useful tip: you can list your qualities and skills, whether they are specific to your position (such as being an excellent salesperson) or more general (if you are always there to help your colleagues, for example). Keep this list in a corner, to which you will add different comments received from your manager and your colleagues over time, and reread it each time you have a slump.
I have my small collection of diverse and varied feedback from my team, ranging from small posts on Slack to more in-depth performance reviews. The days when things are not going well, I take a look at them to remind myself that it’s just a bad time to have in the middle of a good, even very good career. And on a good day, I also like to read it again to come back to the sincere feedback that has made me who I am over time.— WILLINGNESS
To see that you have no reason to have impostor syndrome, pay attention to what is concrete and positive: what has been successful, what you have learned, what allows you to progress…