There is a big difference between being nervous about starting a new job or work responsibility versus having imposter syndrome. For most people, feelings of insecurity and anxiety pass, as there is still a fundamental belief in being able to complete the task at hand. On the other hand, someone with imposter syndrome has pervasive, serious doubts about their abilities. They feel like a fraud and find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. The phenomenon is especially prominent among high-achieving people and those with underrepresented identities.
The following are six key tips for addressing imposter syndrome when it rears its ugly head.
*Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In a post-COVID world in which working remotely has become commonplace, asking for assistance has never been more important. Asking for help is actually a sign of strength, not weakness. It really is okay not to know how to do something. Pretending like you do ends up getting you in more trouble as the issue has now likely gotten worse. No one is totally self-sufficient so admit you don’t know something, address it, and then move on. Acknowledging you don’t know everything also opens up new opportunities for learning.
*Examine your feelings. Consider what is driving your suspicions. Do you set extremely challenging goals and then feel disappointed when you fall short? Are you highly sensitive to constructive criticism? Do you agonize over even the smallest mistakes in your work? By examining your emotions and fears, you can understand where they are coming from and gauge the best means of addressing them. Also, let go of perfectionism, as attaining it is an impossible goal. Rather, celebrate the small win, victories and progress that you make in your professional and personal development.
*Share your feelings. If you don’t trust your own emotions, enlist help – but be careful who you ask for assistance. Airing imposter struggles with peers can actually promote comparison and increase imposter feelings. Conversely, soliciting the help of a trusted colleague can reduce feelings of loneliness and open doors for others to share what they see in you that you may not. An honorable coworker may also be able to offer a different perspective on how to approach a problem or suggest resources that you may not have been aware were available.
*Never dismiss compliments. People who struggle with imposter feelings tend to minimize their accomplishments. They attribute their success to others or chalk it up to luck. If someone congratulates you, don’t be so quick to move on. Pay attention to how you respond and strive to speak more positively about yourself. It’s one thing to not be boastful and dwell on praise. It’s quite another to dismiss compliments as being unimportant.
*Celebrate success. Whether it’s earning a credential, publishing a paper or having a client speak well of you, taking time to applaud yourself can help internalize success – and thus drive away imposter feelings. External, concrete reminders of success are also vital. If you receive an email with positive feedback, save it or print it for future reference. The accomplishment need not feel significant. The little things, taken together, can demonstrate that you are a highly competent professional.
*Focus on helping colleagues. Feelings of inadequacy are more common in the workplace than you might think. No one is good at everything; we all have different strengths and weaknesses and bring different skills and experiences to the workforce. For instance, you might be adept at presentations even though it takes several readings of the new tech manual before you “get it.” A colleague, on the other hand, might be proficient technically but struggle communicating in social situations. You can mentor this person to help address skill gaps; in turn you will build confidence in your own skills. Learning from your peers and colleagues. You can learn many valuable lessons and skills by observing those around you in action.
In conclusion, avoid comparing yourself to others, confide in a trusted colleague about imposter feelings, question negative thinking and replace it with confident, positive thoughts about your abilities.
About the Author:
Susanne Tedrick is an infrastructure specialist for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. In her work, Susanne helps her clients address needs and challenges surrounding cloud adoption, cost optimization and migration. Susanne is the author of the critically acclaimed “Women of Color in Tech” and the upcoming “Innovating For Diversity”. For more information, please visit: www.SusanneTedrick.com.
For additional information:
Chris Palmer, “How to overcome imposter phenomenon,” American Psychological Association, June 1, 2021, accessed March 23, 2022, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/06/cover-impostor-phenomenon#:~:text=%E2%80%9CHelping%20people%20overcome%20impostor%20feelings,where%20impostor%20phenomenon%20is%20common.%E2%80%9D
Arlin Cuncic, “What Is Imposter Syndrome?” Verywellmind, November 23, 2021, accessed March 23, 2022, https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469