How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome at Work

How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome At Work
How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome at Work

Do you sometimes ask yourself, “Do I deserve this job?” If you’re also filled with a lack of confidence and self-doubt and feel you’re a phony or fake at a position you don’t think you are cut out for, chances are you have “Imposter Syndrome.”

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a debilitating psychological phenomenon among professionals leading to low self-esteem and the feeling of inadequacy at work. The term was first described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, Ph.D., and Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., in the 1970s when studying high-achieving women. Imposter syndrome is most evident in professionals who, at some point in time, might go through a phase of feeling worthless, possibly due to failures or inability to meet goals. It is a critical behavioral health condition that negatively impacts professional performance and often leads to burnout.

Imposter syndrome, also known as impostor phenomenon, fraud syndrome, or impostor experience, usually affects high-performing individuals in the wake of extreme target-oriented goals. It follows a set psychological pattern where individuals might begin questioning their accomplishments with fears of being exposed as frauds. Imposter syndrome is self-limiting and, if not checked, can retard career growth, poor self-confidence, anxiety, and undue stress. The stress is primarily due to the fear of being exposed as a fraud.

Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome

Despite their competence, people affected by imposter syndrome frequently feel unworthy of their accomplishments. People with imposter syndrome often have a distorted perception of themselves, attributing their achievements to luck or coincidence. In several cases, IS makes one feel as if they are charlatans tricking their company into thinking they are good at their jobs.

According to research, 65% of professional workers worldwide were diagnosed with imposter syndrome. Prevalence in the workplace can also affect employees across all levels of the organizational hierarchy, including trainees and interns. The common characteristics of imposter syndrome include:

  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Sensitivity of small mistakes
  • Fear of failing
  • Burnout from overwork
  • Self-doubt and feelings of incompetency
  • Crediting external factors for Success
  • Isolation from colleagues
  • Extreme stress
  • Perfectionism
  • Setting impossibly high standards
  • Low self-esteem
  • Intense fear of failure

Five Types of Imposter Syndrome

A leading expert on imposter syndrome, Dr. Valerie Young, in her book  “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in spite of It,” categorized imposter syndrome into five types. Imposter syndrome can manifest in various ways and identify as multiple types, but these are the most common, which fit the behavior of those affected with Imposter syndrome.

  • The Perfectionist: A person whose primary concern is “how” something is done instead of the result. Despite the praise, you believe you could have done better. Perfectionists set their standards too high and feel like fraud when falling short. This leads to a constant fear of being exposed as incompetent.
  • The Expert: Such types feel that competency means knowing everything. They keep questioning how much and what they know, which creates an extreme expectation of themselves. In such a case, even a little lack of knowledge might make a person feel like a failure.
  • The Natural Genius:  This type is constantly judgmental of their abilities based on their ability to learn new skills. According to them, everything should come effortlessly to them; if it doesn’t, it is a sign of incompetence or poor intelligence.
  • The Soloist: Soloists forever feel the need to work alone without help. They view the need for assistance as needing improvement and weakness. This leads to them needing help on a task that could have been better performed as a team.
  • The Superwoman/Superman: A common imposter syndrome where those afflicted are convinced they are fake or imposters among genuine colleagues. As a result, they exert themselves and work harder to keep up. The problem is that the extra effort is more to disguise their insecurities, eventually creating for themselves unnecessary stress, anxiety, inability to cope, and an unhealthy co-worker relationship.

The five types of imposter syndrome aren’t exclusive to the phenomenon and can manifest differently from person to person. By understanding the commonly observed types, individuals might better understand IS and how it may be affecting them.

How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome at Work

Be Your Motivation

Nothing succeeds like a good dose of self-motivation. Remembering your past accomplishments and how you impacted your workplace positively can do much to boost your self-confidence. Recalling your contributions rekindles the feeling of adequacy and significance to your organization.

Acknowledge the Problem and Reset Your Thinking

Acknowledging and accepting your problem is the first step in overcoming imposter syndrome. Understand that self-doubt is not a measure of your abilities, so reframe your negative mindset to focus on achievements. Reflect on your expertise and how vital your skillsets are to an organization.

Focus on Reality

Imposter syndrome makes you feel like you aren’t effective at your job. However, these emotions are frequently founded on fear, not reality. To combat IS, you need to isolate your feelings from the facts. You cannot prevent your mind from generating scenarios but can focus on the points. The next time you feel like a fraud, concentrate on the issues rather than the false perceived scenario. For instance, if you felt uncomfortable after speaking up in a team meeting, consider what your teammates said about it.

Identify and Challenge Negative Thoughts

Imposter syndrome is nothing more than your negativity getting the better of you. Each time you face a bout of negative thinking, challenge it by presenting yourself with evidence of your successes and achievements. Keep a journal or record of positive feedback, praise, and accomplishments that earned you a rep in the organization. Be self-assuring by referring to these in moments of self-doubt.

Accept Failure

Failure is a natural part of learning, helping you grow and develop through experience. Rather than attribute your failure to incompetency, look at it as an opportunity to improve. Analyze where you went wrong and draw lessons from the experience because it is a stepping stone to Success.

Set Realistic Goals

Imposter syndrome can arise from unrealistic expectations and the constant pursuit of perfection. Set realistic, achievable goals that allow you to demonstrate your competence without excessive pressure. Celebrate small victories and acknowledge progress along the way.

Learn to Share and Seek Support

As mentioned earlier, imposter syndrome is expected, so share your feelings with a close colleague who understands you. Suffering in silence is unhealthy, so surround yourself with a supportive network of colleagues, friends, and mentors who can offer constructive and helpful perspectives on your problem. Attending professional groups where you can connect with individuals facing the same problem who can guide you and make you feel you’re not alone in this would be advisable.

Adopt Self-Care

Self-care in life and the workplace is essential to good health and mental well-being. It is also one of the most crucial ways to fight imposter syndrome. Healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle through meditation and mindfulness will strengthen you mentally and make you resilient and optimistic.


Imposter syndrome, if not checked, can impede your growth and Success. However, it is not something you cannot overcome. Recognizing the signs, analyzing your feelings, and addressing them through the advice given here will help you regain your confidence, self-esteem, and, most of all, the sense of self-worth and belief in your capabilities.

Andrew Alpin

Andrew Kevin Alpin is a creative content specialist from Kolkata with several years of experience in content creation focusing on health and wellness. He possesses good insight on psychology and human behavior, including all all aspects of health. Andrew currently works as a Freelance Educational Content Director and Creative head at Enso Integrated Medicine, Bengaluru.