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Strategies for Combating Imposter Syndrome at Work

Overcome imposter syndrome at work and regain a positive mindset with these helpful strategies.

Do you ever feel like you don't belong in your workplace? Do you doubt your abilities and achievements, even when others praise you? Do you fear that, at any moment, someone will expose you as a fraud?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be experiencing imposter syndrome at work. While it may seem like you are alone at times, the truth is that millions of people are coping with imposter syndrome everyday, especially high-achieving women, young people, members of marginalized groups, and those who work in overly competitive environments.

Overall, imposter syndrome can have negative consequences for your mental health, self-esteem, performance, career development, workplace relationships, and physical health. It can also prevent you from reaching your full potential and finding joy in your work.

However, the good news is that imposter syndrome is not a permanent condition. Let's take a look at the definition of imposter syndrome, its underlying causes, the effects it can have on you, and effective strategies to conquer it.

Imposter syndrome, sometimes referred to as imposter phenomenon, refers to the pervasive feeling of self-doubt and fear of being unmasked as a fraud, despite one's actual accomplishments. These imposter feelings make people attribute their success to external factors such as luck, timing, or help from others, rather than their own efforts or talents.

Anyone can experience imposter syndrome regardless of their age, gender, race, or background, and it can manifest in a number of ways, depending on the person and the situation. Signs of imposter syndrome include:

  • Feeling like an outsider or not fitting in
  • Comparing yourself unfavorably to others
  • Downplaying or dismissing your achievements
  • Seeking constant validation or approval
  • Having difficulty accepting praise or compliments
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed of your success
  • Worrying about making mistakes or failing
  • Overworking or underworking
  • Experiencing anxiety, stress, or depression
  • Feeling like you don't belong in your job
  • Doubting your abilities and accomplishments
  • Avoiding challenges and opportunities for fear of failure

Causes of imposter syndrome

Unfortunately, there is no single identifiable cause for imposter syndrome. In fact, it often occurs due to a variety of factors that are interlinked, including:


If you have high expectations for yourself and others, you may feel like nothing you do is ever good enough. You may also focus on your flaws and shortcomings rather than your strengths and achievements. To combat impostor syndrome, you must move away from this mode of thinking.

Family expectations

If you grew up in a family that values achievement and success more than anything else, you may have internalized the pressure to excel and please others. You may also feel like you must live up to the standards set by your parents or siblings.

Workplace environment

If you work in a culture that is competitive, demanding, or critical, you may feel like you must constantly prove yourself and outperform others. You may also feel like you don't belong or fit in with your colleagues or peers.

Being new

If you are new to a role, field, or organization, you may feel like you lack the knowledge, skills, or experience to perform well. You may also feel like an impostor compared to those who have been there longer or have more expertise.

Being different

If you feel different from your co-workers in any way, you may feel even more isolated. You may feel like you need to work harder than anyone else to prove your self worth and overcome negative assumptions.

Personality traits

If you tend to be anxious, self-critical, or insecure, you may be more likely to experience imposter syndrome. You may also tend to negatively evaluate yourself and your performance. In this case, ways of modeling effective stress management may be helpful.

The impact of imposter syndrome

Experiencing imposter syndrome can be very difficult. If you don't contend with your feelings of self doubt, they can have a detrimental effect on various aspects of your life, including:

Mental health

Imposter syndrome can contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression. You may feel overwhelmed by the fear of failure. You may also experience low mood, irritability, or hopelessness. While some may say that self doubt accompanies success, this doesn't always have to be the case.

Self-esteem and confidence

Imposter syndrome can undermine your self-esteem and confidence. You may constantly feel inadequate despite evidence of your competence and success. Instead of betting on yourself as a freelancer, for example, you might find yourself becoming risk averse.

Performance and productivity

The fear of failure of not living up to perceived expectations can lead to procrastination, perfectionism, and workaholism. Employees experiencing imposter syndrome often lack self confidence and find it hard to get out of their often destructive routines.

Career development

Imposter syndrome can hinder your career development and progression. You may avoid taking risks, pursuing advancement opportunities, or applying for higher positions due to your fear of failure. You may also lack the confidence to negotiate for better pay or benefits.

Workplace relationships

Imposter syndrome can impair your workplace relationships and communication. You might avoid social situations or networking opportunities that could help you build rapport and trust with your colleagues and clients.

You may also struggle with accepting praise or recognition for your work and feel isolated or alienated from others who seem more confident or successful.


Imposter syndrome can increase your risk of burnout in the form of physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and reduced motivation. Imposter syndrome makes you overwork yourself in an effort to prove your worth or cover up your perceived inadequacies. You may even find yourself neglecting your personal needs and well-being.

Physical health

Imposter syndrome can also affect your physical health. You may suffer from a range of conditions due to your imposter feelings, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Digestive problems
  • A weakened immune system
  • An increase in infections or illnesses
  • Other stress-related conditions

7 strategies to overcome imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome can be challenging to overcome, but overcoming imposter syndrome isn’t impossible. Here are some strategies that can help you combat imposter syndrome and boost your professional confidence.

1. Acknowledge your feelings

Acknowledge your feelings and recognize them as impostor syndrome. By naming these feelings, you can challenge them and prevent them from escalating. You can also remind yourself that imposter syndrome is common and normal and many successful people have experienced it at some point in their careers.

2. Practice self-compassion

Practice self-compassion and treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer to others. Instead of being harsh or critical of yourself, try to be supportive and encouraging.

Also, celebrate your achievements and strengths, and appreciate yourself for who you are. Be patient with yourself, and don't fear mistakes.

3. Highlight your achievements

Highlight your achievements and keep a record of them. This can help you counteract the negative thoughts and feelings that imposter syndrome triggers. You can write down your accomplishments, big or small, in a journal, a spreadsheet, or a folder.

You can also collect positive feedback, testimonials, awards, or certificates that validate your work. Review these regularly and use them as evidence of your competence and success. This will help you to see how far you've come and remind you of your strengths.

4. Seek support

Seek support from others who can help you overcome imposter syndrome. This can include mentors, colleagues, friends, family members, or a therapist. You can share your feelings and experiences with them, and ask for their advice or feedback. They can also:

  • Provide you with emotional support, affirmation, and encouragement
  • Challenge your negative thoughts and beliefs
  • Help you see yourself more objectively

Talking to someone who understands what you're going through can be helpful as well.

5. Challenge negative thought patterns

Challenge the negative thought patterns that fuel imposter syndrome. These are often distorted or irrational beliefs that do not reflect reality. You can use cognitive behavioral techniques to identify and challenge these thoughts.

  • Question the evidence behind your thoughts: Is there any proof that you are a fraud or that you don't deserve your success? Are there any facts that contradict these thoughts?
  • Reframe negative thoughts into more positive ones: Instead of saying "I'm not good enough", say "I'm doing my best". Instead of saying "I don't belong here", say "I have earned my place here".
  • Set realistic expectations for yourself: Instead of aiming for perfection or comparing yourself to others, set attainable goals that match your skills and abilities. Recognize that learning and growing are part of the process.

6. Stop comparing yourself to others

Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on your own progress and achievements. Comparing yourself to others can make you feel inadequate or inferior, especially if you only see their highlights and not their struggles.

Some work personality types tend to stand out more than others, which creates an illusion that they’re doing far better than you. Remember that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, their own challenges and opportunities, and their own paths and goals.

Instead of measuring yourself against others, measure yourself against your own standards.

7. Cultivate a growth mindset

Cultivate a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that you can improve your skills and abilities through effort and feedback. A fixed mindset is the belief that you are born with a certain level of talent or intelligence that cannot be changed.

A growth mindset means:

  • Embracing challenges as opportunities for growth rather than threats
  • Seeking feedback as a way to learn rather than as a way to judge
  • Viewing mistakes as lessons rather than failures
  • Celebrating effort rather than outcome
  • Appreciating the success of others rather than feeling threatened by it

Try to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than threats.

Conquer imposter syndrome and unlock professional confidence

Imposter syndrome can become a serious obstacle in your career and even impact your life outside of work. Although applying the strategies in this article can help you over imposter syndrome nevertheless you will need time and patience.

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