How to overcome imposter syndrome and feel confident in your career

Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? Find out how to overcome it and feel more confident and capable in your career.

“I don’t deserve to be here.” 

“I feel like a fraud.” 

“What am I doing here?”

Do these thoughts sound all too familiar? Let’s talk about imposter syndrome and how to navigate it.

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome, first identified in 1978 by psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes, is the constant feeling of self-doubt and inadequacy that many successful individuals experience despite their accomplishments. 

This phenomenon leads people to believe they’re frauds in their careers, always fearing they’ll be exposed as incompetent. It can play out at different times, during job negotiations, public speeches, client meetings, team presentations, and other events.

While imposter syndrome starts as a nagging feeling, it quickly develops into something bigger. 

The effects of imposter syndrome

The persistent fear of being exposed as incompetent or unqualified can lead people to question their worth, even with a history of success and accomplishments. This internal struggle can result in overcompensating, avoiding challenges, or attributing successes to external factors, ultimately holding them back from reaching their full potential.

Individuals may work excessively long hours, obsess over details, or take on additional responsibilities to “prove” their worth and competence. This commonly leads to burnout and a lack of work-life balance.

Imposter syndrome can also cause people to believe they lack the necessary skills or qualifications, especially compared to their peers. As a result, they stop pursuing new projects, applying for promotions, or stepping out of their comfort zone.

And that’s not all.

The impact of imposter syndrome can extend beyond the workplace, affecting personal relationships and overall well-being. The stress and anxiety associated with feeling like a fraud can cause individuals to withdraw from social situations, experience decreased self-esteem, and struggle with mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety.

The signs of imposter syndrome

The first step in overcoming imposter syndrome is identifying its presence in your life.

Common signs include:

  • Dismissing your achievements as luck or timing
  • Constantly fearing you’ll be “found out” as a fraud
  • Feeling like you don’t deserve your success
  • Comparing yourself unfavorably to peers
  • Setting excessively high standards and feeling disappointed when they’re not met

After you’ve detected these signs, the next step is to learn your true value.

Five tips on how to overcome imposter syndrome

Here are five tips to help you overcome imposter syndrome and feel confident in your career.

1) Embrace your accomplishments

One effective way to combat imposter syndrome is to acknowledge your achievements and remind yourself of your competence.

  • Keep a record of your accomplishments: Write down milestones, compliments, and positive feedback you’ve received. Review it regularly to remind yourself of your worth.
  • Create a brag file: Collect old resumes, awards, and positive evaluations to showcase your skills and accomplishments. Use this file as a reminder of your capabilities, especially in times when you need a quick confidence boost.
  • Practice self-compassion: Failure doesn’t make you a fraud. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and encounters setbacks, which makes us stronger in the long run. Use that mindset and counteract feelings of failure by listing your accomplishments.
  • Have a clear goal: Make a vision board with your goals and dreams and put it somewhere you can see it daily. As you accomplish the goals on your vision board, take them off and keep them in a book or your brag file!

If you are searching for a new job and struggling to write positively about yourself, check out some resume examples. They often include examples of qualifying skills, accomplishments, and professional summaries you can use as a template. Many of these examples may line up with your skills and accomplishments, boosting your confidence and reassuring your capabilities.

2) Develop a growth mindset

A growth mindset, as opposed to a fixed mindset, focuses on the belief that you can develop skills and intelligence through hard work, persistence, and learning from mistakes. 

One effective approach is to embrace challenges. View difficult tasks as opportunities to learn and grow rather than looking at them with fear in your eyes. By shifting the focus from potential failure to progress, you can develop a healthier attitude toward your abilities and achievements, fostering a proactive approach to problem-solving.  

Another essential aspect of overcoming imposter syndrome is learning from criticism. As human beings, we often find it hard to accept feedback, especially when it involves some criticism. But the key is to have an open mind – catch possible gaps in your performance and work toward improvement.

3) Connect with others 

Self-doubt often leads to isolation, thinking we are alone in this fight. This could not be further from the truth. Imposter syndrome affects many people, even leaders. Sharing your experiences with others can provide valuable support and perspective and create a positive environment.

  • Seek out mentors: Connect with experienced professionals who can provide guidance and encouragement.
  • Join support groups or professional networks: Engage with peers facing similar challenges and share your stories.
  • Open up to friends and family: Discuss your feelings with people who care about you and can offer reassurance.

4) Set realistic expectations

Imagine setting a goal of reaching 1,500 monthly sales when your average is 500. How would you feel when you don’t reach that number? Maybe defeated and doubtful.

While ambition drives success, unrealistic expectations can contribute to imposter syndrome and shake self-confidence.

Instead, setting achievable goals and celebrating small victories can help mitigate these feelings of inadequacy. By breaking down goals into smaller, manageable tasks, you can tackle challenges one step at a time, reducing the likelihood of feeling overwhelmed.

Give yourself a thumbs up after signing a deal with a new client, or treat yourself to a nice lunch for increasing monthly subscriptions. When celebrating small wins, no matter their size, you can acknowledge your successes and use them as motivation to continue moving forward.

5) Develop self-confidence

It won’t come as a surprise that building confidence would create a strong wall against that nerve-wracking fear of being incompetent or unqualified.

  • Make time for self-care: Boost your confidence and maintain your overall well-being by exercising regularly, eating well, and getting enough sleep. And try to avoid stress, both at work and at home.
  • Practice good posture: Stand tall and maintain eye contact when speaking to others to convey confidence. People say that standing in a superman pose before an important meeting or speech also ramps up confidence. It wouldn’t hurt to try.
  • Develop new skills: Take courses and gain more knowledge in areas you want to improve.
  • Engage in activities outside of work: Pursue hobbies, volunteer, or join social clubs to create a well-rounded life.

Everyone experiences moments of self-doubt

Imposter syndrome can be a significant barrier to success and happiness in your career. But remember that you are not alone, and even the most accomplished professionals experience moments of self-doubt. 

The key is to acknowledge these feelings and actively work on overcoming them. In no time, the imposter syndrome will fade away, leaving you ready for future challenges.