How to Stop Imposter Syndrome from Affecting Your Career

How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Flourish in Your Career

You've probably heard of imposter syndrome, and it's more than likely that you will have experienced it at some point in your life too. I for one suffer from it on a regular basis - it's that dread that someone will expose you for who you really are at work - and imposter who has no idea what they are doing.


What is 'Imposter Syndrome'?

The phrase imposter syndrome is usually used to describe an individual who struggles to internalise their accomplishments, and experiences self-doubt to the point that they are worried of being exposed as a 'fraud'.

Imposter syndrome is a very common psychological issue, which is very prevalent in the career world and it's also most common in women.

“Interestingly, it’s often very high-achieving people who feel this way and lack this sense of confidence in their abilities.” Says Andy Molinsky Author of Reach: A New Strategy to Help You Step Outside Your Comfort Zone, Rise to the Challenge and Build Confidence. (Source: Cosmopolitan)

This is something I, along with lots of other women are experiencing. What adds to this point is that I wouldn't even say I'm a 'high-achieving' person. I always had average grades at school, I was awful at sports and somehow I have managed to start my own business and get actual real-life clients who trust my advice!


Why do we feel like this?

Famously Meryl Streep gets the feelings of imposter syndrome. She once said, “You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie?' And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”

Despite being nominated for more Golden Globes than any other actor, ever(!) she still gets these feelings of self doubt. Which should make us feel less alone in our imposter syndrome!

I was reading a lot into the topic when it dawned on me, I get these feelings of self doubt because of skills that come naturally to me or I have learnt organically. For example - I'm not book smart on social media, nor do I spend hours trawling through internet or marketing blogs. I rarely have the time to (and to be honest it doesn't interest me either) but what I do every day has taught me what I know while I've been doing it, and this is the same for you - what you do every day at work is learn as you go. You learn new skills and new knowledge as you work which almost makes it feel like you haven't learnt it at all - all because you never took an exam for it.

When we were at school, we were taught that our intelligence and success is based on a grade in an exam. An hour in a room, putting pen to paper on topics that we had spent weeks revising for. Depending on what grade we received we would tell ourselves  "I got a D in maths because I'm not very good with numbers" or "I'm great at writing because I got an A in English". The grade basically 'told' us whether we were good at things and we would believe it.

The more we told ourselves we were bad/good at things, the more likely we were to do these things less/more. When something comes naturally to you, you wouldn't necessarily consider yourself bad/good at it because you've learnt it along the way. Therefore, a grade has not confirmed/denied that we are good at it and so sometimes we feel less confident about the things we are doing.

It is reported that in millenials, this lack of confidence comes from their 'lack of experience' compared to other members of staff - especially in the early stages of ones career.


Who experiences it?

A recent study found that in millenials, women are most likely to suffer from imposter syndrome. In fact, 40% of young women said they were intimidated by senior members of staff, compared to just 22% of males.

It was also reported that 52% of millenials fear being put on the spot.

Dr Valerie Young who has written extensively on women in the workplace believes that women feel this way in part to the sexist stereotypes that still exist for women at work. She says that whether it's conscious or not, women feel that they are being watched and scrutinised differently from their male counterparts in the workplace.


How can we stop doubting ourselves?

We all have good and bad days. On good days, we might win a new client and it feels good because it reminds us that we are capable and worthy of this success.

However, on bad days, when something goes wrong or something isn't panning out the way that we expected it to, it feels like the worst thing in the world. It makes us feel anxious and guilty.

How do we solve it? Well, what works for me is to celebrate those good days, and think about them on the bad days.

There's always a way to fix the bad days! If you're feeling anxious the best thing you can do is speak to someone about it. Confide in someone you trust who you know will listen to your worries. Often, it's good to speak to someone who has more years than you and might have gone through a similar problem or felt this way - this could be your mum, a colleague or a friend. Alternatively it could be someone who is in a similar position to you because they have probably been through what you're going through.

For me, my boyfriend is this person. He doesn't have years on me, but he almost always knows how to solve a problem...and failing that he always has something positive to say to make me feel better!

We almost never celebrate those small successes - so whatever you do - make sure you celebrate them because it will remind you on those shitty days that you're amazing. Remind yourself that we're only human and we can't be perfect 100% of the time. The sooner we come to accept it, the more our confidence will be boosted!


About the Author

Lucy started Sassy Digital out of her interest for helping small businesses gain more customers. She started Sassy Digital while she had a full time job and it quickly turned into a full time career. She now employs two staff members, and runs the social media accounts and provides digital consultancy to small businesses across the UK and abroad.