How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome At Work

how to deal with imposter syndromeMany of you may be wondering how to deal with imposter syndrome – but no one would imagine, from the outside, that you feel this way.

You never talk about it with anyone. What if someone found out you felt that way? What if someone knew you weren’t 100% confident at all times about what you are doing?

You may be thinking that your issue is way worse than that. You’re not certain even close to 100% of the time. There are plenty of times at work that you’re afraid you’re behind your colleagues or behind where you should be.

You don’t think your accomplishments or skills are really due to something you’ve done. From the outside you probably appear very accomplished, but you may chalk it up to an accident, a favor, or something else – anything but your own worthiness. Or, maybe you know for sure that your skills aren’t up to par and you’re just waiting for the world to find out. . .

If you can relate, you’re probably struggling with imposter syndrome.

Who Has Imposter Syndrome 

Imposter syndrome at work isn’t uncommon. In fact, up to 70% feel like this at least once in their lives. It happens for women and men alike, but is more common among women.  It is also particularly common among high-achievers.

How Do You Know If You’re Dealing With Imposter Syndrome? Two Types.

If you want to figure out how to deal with imposter syndrome at work, you first have to correctly diagnose the issue. In my coaching experience, I’ve worked with two types of imposter syndrome.

The first type is not “real” imposter syndrome, but I’m sure some of you will recognize it anyway. The second is what’s traditionally known as imposter syndrome.

Below I’ll talk about the two types of imposter syndrome I’ve seen and how to deal with each one.

How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome: Type One

The first type of “imposter syndrome” is where a person is hiding out in their job, doing duties that they feel ill-equipped to perform. They perhaps got hired for a role or promoted to a position that they don’t feel prepared or trained to do, but instead of asking for the training or seeking it out, they pretend to be able to do the job.

I’m not blaming anyone here – it’s obviously an extremely difficult situation. Who wants to be called out and show everyone that they don’t know things? How shaming is that, especially in this culture? The consequences in this situation are very high – you potentially lose your job, and you lose face.

Type One: “imposter syndrome” is where you feel like an imposter because you’re not prepared for the role and you know it.

How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome: Type One – What You Can Do

The solution to dealing with this problem is to get the skills you lack. You’ll never feel comfortable in your job unless you reach the level of competence you feel you need – just don’t set the bar too high (see Imposter Syndrome Type 2).

If you don’t want to out yourself at work and let everyone know what you can’t do or don’t know, find a way to learn the skills or get the information outside of work. There’s tons of access to information and training on the web.

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How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome: Type Two

This is the more traditional imposter syndrome. It is characterized by

  • Perfectionism
  • Overworking
  • Undermining one’s own achievements
  • Fear of failure
  • Discounting praise

People who have more traditional imposter syndrome can outwardly achieve a great deal, but inwardly never feel that they are responsible for any of it.

This can lead people to over work, over accomplish, and never feel any better.

Even if you don’t struggle with this as a pervasive issue, many people are guilty of doing this to themselves on a small scale. Really think about this.

Do you recognize your own achievements?

Are you aware of what you do and where you deserve to be at work?

How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome: Type Two – What You Can Do

So, how do you deal with imposter syndrome at work?

The research suggests that you should talk about how you feel with other people. Chances are, other people can relate, and you won’t feel so alone.

It’s so interesting to me how I’ll have one coaching call with a client who looks super-impressive on paper and he or she will reveal to me how vulnerable they feel and how no one else probably feels that way, and the very next call is with someone else, equally impressive, who also feels equally inadequate and equally alone.

I do my best to reassure them both, but if they could talk to each other honestly, they’d probably feel better.

Research also says that if you make a list of your accomplishments, positive feedback, and success stories, it will help to negate these feelings. This is something I’ve done with clients in coaching and it does help.

Getting feedback on your performance from people you trust can help too – and not just negative feedback. Positive feedback can go a long way. When that’s not forthcoming at work, and when, in fact you only get negative feedback, having a source of positive feedback or a place to reflect on what went well can be invaluable for feeling good about yourself, your skills and the work you do.

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How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome If You Have It

The most important thing to do if you have imposter syndrome is to face it. It’s one of those things that’s very easy to hide from in some ways, because the nature of it is to be hiding. However, the pain it creates is very real.

Acknowledge that this is happening and then take steps to address it. Find someone to talk to whether it’s your spouse, a coach, or a trusted co-worker or friend. Gain the skills you need or recognize that you’re doing a good job already.

Freeing yourself from imposter syndrome will be a relief of a heavy burden!


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Personal Development


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