When starting a new job, it’s normal to feel nervous about what lies ahead. For most people, this goes away quickly once they find footing in their new workplace.
However, for some people this feeling of being ‘the rookie’ may never leave them. Even after finding success in their role, they may still feel incapable of performing their role and believe they are in over their head. Even after receiving praise for their professional accomplishments, they may feel it is inaccurate or undeserved. This feeling of unrelenting self-doubt is popularly known as imposter syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success” by Harvard Business Review. Those affected may wonder why this occurs and, more importantly, how these feelings can be lessened or overcome completely.
There are many reasons why someone may experience imposter syndrome.
Researchers believe imposter syndrome can come from different areas of life.
A major one is that people experiencing imposter syndrome already suffer from anxiety. “Imposter syndrome is frequently associated with trait anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and social anxiety disorder. I don’t see a lot of people with imposter syndrome who don’t have anxiety,” explains psychologist and academic director Audrey Ervin. Individuals who suffer from existing anxiety are more likely to suffer from imposter syndrome than those without.
Perfectionism is another common symptom seen in people with imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome and perfectionism can go hand in hand. Someone new in a position may feel like a failure because they are setting high standards for performance. When they do not meet those standards, they see themselves as a failure.
Another factor with people that have imposter syndrome is associating success or achievements with luck. Gill Corkindale explains in his article, Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, “The tendency to attribute success to luck or to other external reasons and not their abilities is a clear indicator of imposter syndrome. They may typically say or think: “I just got lucky” or “it was a fluke”. Often this masks the fear that they will not be able to succeed the next time.” Essentially, those suffering from imposter syndrome feel unable to take credit for their own success, making it difficult to find joy or motivation in their work.
How does someone overcome imposter syndrome?
There are many ways people can overcome imposter syndrome. One of the major steps is recognizing when these negative feelings emerge and reframe your thinking. No one is going to know everything in their job when they first start out, so it’s important that they do not get discouraged when struggling to understand certain aspects of their job.
It is also important that individuals reach out for help from family, friends, or even professionals if needed. Outside guidance may give a new perspective and help with overcoming feelings of self-doubt.
Embracing success and showing self-compassion are other ways to navigate feeling like you’re faking it. Celebrating your successes, even small ones, can be pivotal in boosting self confidence. Each day or week, list every success and explain to yourself how and why you succeeded, instead of brushing it off as luck. As Alexandra Owens, in her article for Psycom.net, explains, “Over time, this practice will give you a realistic picture of your accomplishments and help affirm your self-worth.”
Another way you can help yourself overcome imposter syndrome is taking Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. MBCT helps people reflect on their feelings and foster more compassionate, constructive ways of relating to themselves. It has become a popular approach to help manage symptoms of imposter syndrome.
Why are we sharing this?
This information is important to know for employees at any level, from a new-hire to a CEO. When onboarding new employees, this context can help you remain compassionate if you notice them struggling. When starting in a new role, this can help you remain mindful of how you perceive yourself and your work. Having a workplace that is aware of this phenomenon and works together to ensure all employees feel confident and appreciated, will establish a solid foundation in which all members can thrive.