Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Sep 2, 2022

Dealing with Imposter Syndrome at Work

Recent studies suggest that as many as 70% of us have suffered from imposter syndrome at some point in our career, with this being particularly prevalent amongst high achievers.

With imposter syndrome, people often feel undeserving of their own achievements and feel that success is just down to luck, good timing or being surrounded by good people. Imposters often feel that they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others may think and live in fear that people may discover that they are in fact an imposter.

Which type of imposter are you?

Dr Valerie Young who is an expert on this subject and author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It has identified five different types of imposter and shares how it can manifest in your career – The Expert, The Perfectionist, the Soloist, the Natural Genius and the Super Hero.

Whilst you may identify with many of the different types of imposter, we may have one type which is more dominant.

The Expert

Experts measure their competence based on what and how much they know. They prepare at length for meetings and want to know every single detail. They measure their competence based on how much they know. They worry about coming across as inexperienced or unknowledgeable.

The Perfectionist.

Sets excessively high standards for themselves and aims to deliver their absolute best at every project they embark on. Anything less than 100% perfect is not good enough and the perfectionist agonises over every small detail. This can lead to anxiety, doubt and worry, especially when they fail to meet their own extreme goals.

The Soloist

Prefers to work alone. They feel that they have to prove their own worth by doing everything by themselves and believe asking for help will reveal their incompetence. 

The Natural Genius

Typically masters new skills quickly and efficiently. They set the bar very high for themselves and judge themselves on whether they get things right the first time. They believe if they have to work hard at something, then this can invoke feelings of imposter syndrome.

The Super Hero

Often excels in all areas because they push themselves so hard. They believe that through hard work and long hours, they can hide their supposed inadequacies. Over time this overload in work and extra stress can lead to burnout and mental health issues.

In a recent survey of 171 women who work in the tech industry, an overwhelming majority of 46% of the respondents identified with being the Perfectionist, 22% identified with being the Super Hero, 15% with the Soloist, 11% with the Expert and 6% with the Natural Genius. 

Strategies to take ownership of your success

One thing that keeps people feeling like an imposter is the belief that they are not worthy of their accomplishments and often attribute their success to luck or good timing. Here are three tried and tested strategies that you can use to help manage your feelings of imposter syndrome, so you take ownership of your successes and optimise your full potential.

Create a Success Folder

As a starting point, I recommend to my coaching clients to start creating a success folder. Whenever you receive a great piece of feedback whether it be from your manager, a co-worker or a client, record it in your success folder. If you have delivered a great project or overachieved against your targets, log it in your success folder. 

Whenever you’re experiencing feelings of imposter syndrome, you can revisit your success file and read about your accomplishments – this helps you move into a positive mindset, builds your self-confidence and helps you acknowledge your successes. This log of successes will also serve as talking points when you go for your next promotion or job interview.

Feel the Fear and do it anyway

Fear and self doubt often holds us back from applying for a promotion, starting a new project or negotiating a pay raise. We may feel that we are not worthy or don’t have the right skill set to be successful. Focus on your strengths and your transferable skills, and how you could apply these to a new role or project. 

Talk to trusted allies

When you’re experiencing feelings of imposter syndrome, it can be helpful to reach out to people you respect and trust. You’ll be surprised how many people can relate to your feelings and will be able to show you how your fears are unfounded. They will be able to offer valuable advice and support to help you build your confidence in your abilities.

Remember that imposter syndrome affects 7 out of 10 people and you are not alone. Spend five minutes every day reflecting on your accomplishments, own your success at work and start the journey to becoming a more confident you.