overcome imposter syndrome - missing jigsaw piece dropping into brain

Imposter syndrome negatively impacts the mental health and wellbeing of employees, explains Dr Lynda Shaw

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the belief that you are not as competent as others think you are, or that you don’t deserve the success you have. You are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome if you have low confidence or perfectionism tendencies, do not feel fully included or have mental health symptoms such as anxiety. Imposter syndrome can affect anyone regardless of gender, job, age or social status.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Change your narrative

Notice and reflect on any self-deprecating habits and language that you use about yourself and see if you can replace them with something positive. Listen to others who say they enjoy working with you or thank you for your contribution and take a moment to notice and compare those comments with your own self-assessment.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself

Avoid toxic individuals. Show kindness to others, which as a by-product increases your production of oxytocin, a hormone responsible for feelings of happiness.

Work out the real ways to measure your success

Develop your own workplace values and what is important to you. Look back on how far you have come and all that you have learnt.

Question irrational thoughts

Always be cognisant of irrational beliefs and thoughts, such as that work colleagues are pitying you when they congratulate you for work well done.

Avoid making comparisons

Making comparisons and focusing on other peoples’ lives rather than your own is a waste of energy and can incite resentment or jealousy, which are two very draining emotions. Notice those feelings and try to turn them into being pleased for someone else’s achievements. Acknowledge that they too deserve success, just like you do. Perfection is an illusion, and your best is good enough. 

Be kind to yourself

It may take practise, but recognise your achievements and allow others to praise you for them. Forgive yourself if you make a mistake and treat mistakes as an opportunity to learn. There is no need to push yourself to the limit and beyond. Reserve some time in your week to recuperate and treat yourself. Self-compassion strengthens internal psychological safety and promotes feelings of courage and adventure.

Identify what is helping or hindering your success

Ask yourself questions like: What do I need less of in my life? What do I want more of? How can I live my best life? What am I grateful for today? Engaging in these kinds of questions helps you to identity the things that are affecting your self-esteem and confidence.

Share your feelings

Having a chat with someone who knows you well can often give you a more reasoned way of looking at things and help you see what is rational and what is not. Irrational beliefs are likely to fester when they aren’t addressed or talked about. Be aware if you are suffering from anxiety or depression; seek help from friends and family, your boss or a colleague, or talk to your doctor.

Acknowledge instances when you feel you don’t belong and know that you do

There will be times at work when you feel out of place, perhaps because of your age or gender or because you genuinely lack experience in an area being discussed, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be there. Inclusion and diversity benefit the workplace in countless ways, from more creative thinking to promoting respect, and diverse and inclusive companies are far more likely to outperform their less diverse competitors.

Celebrate your success as an individual and as a team

Success is rarely down to timing or simply good luck. Remember that hard work, experience and your skillset have led you to where you are at work. Write down your successes to remind yourself that you are good enough. Accept and enjoy the compliments and offer some of your own to others. Build connections and a network of mutual support.

Dr Lynda Shaw is a change specialist, regular professional speaker, chartered psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist and author. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and Fellow and ... (Read More)

One comment on “How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome at Work

  1. Dr Lynda Shaw on

    Thank you so much for your comment Lillian. I’m delighted you found the article insightful and encouraging, that is music to my ears! Everyone has valuable things to contribute and when we realise this, the workplace is a far more productive and pleasurable place to work. Stay well. Lynda


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