Facing imposter syndrome at work? Here's how you can overcome it

Continuous feelings of restlessness, nervousness, inadequacies, symptoms of anxiety/depression often convoy imposter syndrome at workplace, vocation or business

By Mohita Shrivastava

Published: Thu 4 May 2023, 3:32 PM

Last updated: Fri 5 May 2023, 1:01 PM

In this modern, competitive world, it is necessary to prove oneself continuously whether it’s at work, social or business circle. But what if it becomes engulfing, arduous and toilsome to face, accept and fulfil the demands? What if doubts and thoughts inundated with fear, worry, dearth of confidence and motivation pop up often? For example, “My boss must be thinking that I am good for nothing and really made a mistake by hiring me. I am sure they are already in the process of firing me.” In many cases, this self-doubt or fallacy that often brings a cascade of negative emotions wherein one labels themselves as a fraud or a phony, is known as ‘imposter syndrome’. It is a cognitive distortion, an internal psychological experience of inability to savour success despite being a high-performing individual in objective ways by often self-doubting your abilities. Continuous feelings of restlessness, nervousness, inadequacies, symptoms of anxiety/depression often convoy imposter syndrome at workplace, vocation or business.

The imposter syndrome shows up in five different forms — the perfectionist (hungry for success, higher prestige and feels dissatisfied no matter how good they achieve), the superwoman/man (not only willing to work overtime but also trying to prove themselves as being capable of handling anything to get endorsement at workplace), the soloist (not willing to ask for help and resenting others, as seeking help makes them fearful of getting exposed of not knowing enough), the natural genius (cherish putting minimal effort into their work and succeeding, pride on being quick-slick in getting things done) and the expert (exhibits a compulsive need to have all the knowledge, credentials and experience even before applying for a vocation or work).

The causes are attributed to a very demanding upbringing and family environment with a lot of stress on accomplishments or being too critical of one’s abilities, social pressures and constantly seeking approval from others. Besides, diversity and biases at workplace with discriminatory views, policies based on race, socioeconomic class, religion, gender and tokenism intensifies self-doubt by questioning one’s self-worth. Finally, there are some personality traits that lead to internalising feelings of pressure, doubt and failure.

Ways to deal with imposter syndrome:

1. Positive intelligence assessment can help expose sabotaging voices that are holding you from progress.

2. Two column exercise list: ‘Evidence of being inadequate’ and ‘Evidence of being competent’ can help one to understand the right picture by gathering, acknowledging, and reflecting on proof of competency.

3. Focusing on inner values more than outward success or achievements.

4. Understand that one can’t grow, learn, or progress without failures.

5. Get out of rumination, a pattern of circling thoughts by talking to someone or jotting down fears.

6. Be self-compassionate and inundate yourself with credit, motivation, appreciation for wherever you have reached so far.

7. Embrace and learn from losses or failures.

8. Mindfulness meditation: Use SBNRR (Stop, Breath, Notice, Reflect, Respond) mindfulness technique to pause, re-evaluate and recognise your strengths and opportunities by placing yourself in the present.

9. Welcome feedback from trustworthy circle: A periodic open and meaningful feedback from a dependable circle will help in thrashing out negative labels by yourself or anyone else.

It is imperative to understand that imposter syndrome poses overwhelming self-doubts, inadequacies, inability to enjoy success and often shuns opportunities that would eventually let oneself flourish and sparkle.


More news from Lifestyle