4 tips to overcome workplace impostor syndrome and shine

Impostor syndrome is very harmful to an individual’s overall wellbeing.

Doubting yourself? [Kebs Visuals/Pexels]

Pulse Nigeria

Sheryl Sandberg, Tom Hanks, Michelle Obama, Maya Angelou, Mark Zuckerberg, Serena Williams, and probably several other famous (and ordinary) people you know all have something in common: they have experienced the impostor syndrome at some point in their lives. The Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern that promotes an intense feeling of inadequacy in an individual, regardless of past successes or competence. Such persons doubts their talents and are constantly in fear of being exposed as a “scam” or “fraud” by others.

Contrary to what you may think, the impostor syndrome isn’t rare. As reported by The Open Notebook, researchers estimate that close to 70% of the human population have experienced it at least once in their lives. This means that it is normal for you too to have feelings of inadequacy from time to time.

Impostor syndrome can become harmful to an individual’s overall wellbeing. According to an article on the Verywell Mind website, this problem leads to Self-doubt, inability to self-asses realistically, inability to accept credit for your successes, self-bashing over performance, extreme fear of failing to meet expectations, a desire to overachieve in order to ‘catch-up’, self-sabotage and intense disappointment that comes from setting extremely challenges goals and not meeting them.

Thankfully, there are ways to manage the Impostor Syndrome. Here are four practical tips:

In most cases, negative thoughts accompany impostor syndrome. Those thoughts tell you “You are not enough” or give you the impression that those around you you are incompetent.

Negative thoughts can be overwhelming. Therefore, it’s essential to pay attention to them, classify them as mere “thoughts” not facts and terminate the negative self-talk. This will free you from the snare of recurring negative thoughts. Take for instance you have fears over a tight deadline or a tough task. Instead of giving room for anxiety, make an affirmative statement like:

“I know I am anxious about this project. I feel this way because I am not feeling self-confident, and that’s okay because my emotions affect my perceptions. However, I know that I have the education and experience to make this happen. I also have the records to prove that. I’ve got this!”

One of the ways to deal with Impostor Syndrome is to keep a record of your achievements at work. Record the times your idea saved the company, when you performed excellently well on a task, and when you received complements to your initiatives.

This is important because, as psychologists have noted, many of us are inherently negative and we tend to pay more attention to negative events than positive ones as we try to find meaning in occurrences. While there is nothing wrong in looking-back past failures or mistakes, the positive moments and events should play a significant role in our lives too.

For example, you could focus on the times you did well on a task and use this identify a pattern that may show you where your biggest strengths lie. After discovering this, you could take up more roles in that direction and develop your portfolio around it.

So it is not a bad idea to have your good records in a work journal. Document all the positive feedback you have gotten from your colleagues or bosses. You can also store commendation or appreciation emails and special notes you received. On days when you have doubts, your “Accomplishment Journal” will prove the doubting voice wrong.

One of the most destructive things people do when experiencing Impostor Syndrome is self-isolation. This is a bad move. It’s crucial to build relationships with people in your field, including your boss, managers, co-workers, and colleagues. These people can provide validating feedback to you and affirm your competence.

With a supportive network, you’ll have people who can normalize your encounters, provide guidance and reassure you when doubts you have about yourself are not accurate. You can also ask them questions when a task confuses you rather than wallow in self-doubt and in self-pity.

Most managers love employees who ask questions: it is perceived as a sign of willingness to grow and do better.

You may consider it counterintuitive to get out of your comfort zone, but it works. Admittedly, we experience the Impostor syndrome mostly when we assume new roles, take on new/big projects or tasked with doing something new.

These situations imply that we fear uncharted waters. We want to stay in our comfort zones forever. However, doing the uncomfortable, despite having fear and self-doubt, will build your confidence and generally improve your self-perception.

Be hungry for professional development. Spend time acquiring practical knowledge about your job and your industry and focus on your professional growth. These will ultimately give you leverage over self-sabotage and doubt. As they say, Knowledge is Power.

Julia Davis, the chief information officer of American insurance company Aflac, suggested a few other practical ways to deal with things you can do to deal with Impostor Syndrome in a Forbe’s magazine interview. She suggested self-promotion of personal accomplishments to prevent real impostors from taking credit for your hard work, being comfortable in your own skin, knowing when to ask questions and sharing valid opinions without waiting to be asked.

I’ll leave you with this quote from the renowned impostor syndrome expert Dr Valerie Young: “The only way to stop feeling like an impostor is to stop thinking like an impostor.”


Pulse Contributors is an initiative to highlight diverse journalistic voices. Pulse Contributors do not represent the company Pulse and contribute on their own behalf.


About the author: Ifeoluwa MIBIOLA is a writer and user experience expert for a FinTech Startup. Mibiola is a graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) who loves to read, dance, sing and express her unique perspective on relevant life issues through writing.


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