Imposter Syndrome: The Struggle is REAL

March 9, 2020

Imposter syndrome is defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills.” It causes people to doubt themselves and their ideas, especially in a work environment, and it can lead people to avoid sharing their thoughts, taking on leadership positions, or pursuing challenging tasks due to the fear of being discovered as an “imposter.” 

Navigating Imposter Syndrome at Work 

If you’ve experienced imposter syndrome, don’t worry. Studies suggest 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their careers. This is all to say that many people go through it, including me. Whenever I find myself feeling insecure, I try and remind myself of all the hard work I’ve put in to get to where I currently am. If that isn’t enough, I’ve always been able to find comfort in confiding in someone who I trust. There’s a good chance that whoever you confide in will have their own experience with imposter syndrome that they can tell you about. 

Something else that allows me to navigate experiencing imposter syndrome is understanding that it’s okay to not have all the answers. Just because you hold a certain title or position doesn’t mean that you automatically know everything about the work that you do (especially in a fast-paced industry that’s always changing). We are all life-long learners and won’t get labeled as a “fraud” for not knowing everything (which is simply unrealistic). Many people who experience imposter syndrome are afraid of asking for help, which ultimately becomes the source of their own demise. When you encounter a problem that you’re not familiar with, the best thing you can do is to ask your coworkers, mentors, or supervisors for help. It’s okay to be an independent person, but not to the extent that you refuse assistance. As someone wise once told me, “There’s no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone.” 

Supporting Your Coworkers 

Something as complex as imposter syndrome can easily be masked, so we should never assume that just because someone appears to be happy or extraverted doesn’t mean that they don’t experience insecurities.

Generally, we can help support one another by ensuring that everyone feels validated and respected, encourage each other to share ideas during team meetings, and recognize people’s work through words of affirmation. If a coworker specifically confides in you about their experience with imposter syndrome, be kind and be an active listener. Truly hone in on what they have to say, try to empathize with their perspective, and allow them to express everything they’ve been holding in. Being present for someone could truly make a difference in their career. 

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, remember this: we are all here for a reason. In this job, business, and in life, we are all worthy. Just like Aibileen told Mae Mobley in The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Remember that mantra and remind yourself as often as you need to!