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Feel Like an Imposter at Work? You’re Not Alone

Feb21
Do you feel like a fraud – someone who landed in their role thanks to luck rather than qualifications – at work? Chances are you're not alone.

Leaders have a reputation for being high achievers – not rooted in just their own performance, but that of the workforce and technology infrastructure they built around them. It’s no surprise then that so many hold themselves to impossibly high standards.

It doesn’t matter how much positive feedback these leaders earn, how many awards they receive, or how many people they impress. These go-getters fear that their weaknesses will unravel. As confident as they appear, they’re shaking under their skin. They’re self-made imposters.

Researchers point out that imposter syndrome has nothing to do with actual shortcomings. Rather, this distorted self-perception is linked to a sense of relentless perfectionism – especially women and academics.

The good news about imposter syndrome is these feelings are entirely in your head. The bad news? It could be interfering with your career advancement. Leaders can overcome this roadblock by taking the following steps:

Step 1: Recognize It

In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to beat yourself up. Overcoming imposter syndrome means recognizing that you’re pushing yourself too hard.

The time to deal with imposter syndrome isn’t when you’re feeling bad. It’s when you’re feeling good about your work – when you’re having a great day and have the clarity to think rationally.

Self-reflection should be an active part of your professional experience. While you’re driving or on the train, think about what you do well and areas where you believe you can improve. Try to look at your performance with an objective eye.

Step 2: Embrace Weaknesses

Weaknesses aren’t necessarily bad for your career. Nobody is perfect – and that’s okay. Instead of dwelling on what you do wrong, focus on nurturing the skillsets in which you excel. Over time, you’ll naturally start to develop gaps in areas – for instance, if you’re a brilliant art director, you may start to lose your entry level programming skills.

Confront these gaps head-on and smile – when you’re exceptional, your strengths will move you forward. Your weaknesses will be nothing in comparison.

You can always build teams around the areas in which you’re weak. If you’re a great writer, for instance, focus on recruiting equally great data analysts and designers.

Step 3: Practice Objectivity

Next time you find yourself saying, “I’m sorry, but…” – just stop. You have nothing to be sorry about. Focus on the constructive aspects of your conversation. If something went wrong? Depersonalize it. There is absolutely no reason to accept blame for something that isn’t your fault.

Stop internalizing problems that have nothing to do with your performance. Remember that in business, context is equally important to individual performance. It’s why you joined your employer in the first place – to be a part of an amazing mission, vision and team. Sometimes, the company will experience hiccups, and that’s okay. Don’t let imposter syndrome get in the way of finding a constructive path forward.

Be Patient

There are some leaders who make confidence look easy. It’s easy to feel frustrated and think, “what’s wrong with me?”

Keep in mind that the world’s most confident leaders have years of practice – sometimes, with the help of professional coaches.

The art of feeling amazing starts with one big first step: stop beating yourself up.