Do you tend to doubt your abilities at work and write off your achievements as lucky or unearned? You may be dealing with imposter syndrome, and you’re not alone.
Coined by psychologists in the 1970s, “imposter syndrome” is not a mental disorder but rather a common experience characterized by feelings of self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a “fraud” despite your true abilities and achievements.
Some people are reporting a greater preponderance of imposter syndrome while working remotely. Without the structure and reassurance of the work environment, those working from home may be especially susceptible to feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.
Here are 3 tips for overcoming imposter syndrome:
1. Play detective with your thoughts
You’re given a task to complete and you immediately become overwhelmed with self-doubt and worry. “I can’t do this.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.” “Everyone will find out I’m a fraud.”
The key to challenging these critical thoughts and self-judgments is to “play detective” with the self-accusation that you’re not good enough, smart enough, creative enough, or whatever it is for you. What’s your evidence that this is true? And what about evidence to the contrary? Take stock of all the steps along the way that got you to where you are now.
2. Shift your mindset
Imposter syndrome tends to bring about a repeating cycle of self-doubt that goes like this:
In response to your fear of failure, you either put off tasks until they can no longer be avoided, or you over-prepare. In turn, once you’ve accomplished a task, instead of crediting your success to your abilities, you attribute the success to luck (if you procrastinated) or high effort (if you over-prepared). In the end, even when you’re successful and given positive feedback, you dismiss the achievement and the feedback and go on feeling fraudulent, which attributes to ongoing anxiety, depression, and self-doubt. And the cycle continues.
Inherent in this pattern of behavior is the belief that your work should always be easy for you, you should never need help, and you should never make mistakes. Psychologists call beliefs like this “fixed mindsets”, or beliefs that your intelligence and abilities are fixed traits that cannot grow. Fixed mindsets tend to make us feel anxious and depressed because we believe if we struggle or make a mistake, it’s because we’re just not good enough. The good news is we can practice shifting our beliefs about our abilities to be growth-minded. Here are some examples of shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset:
- Fixed mindset: I made a mistake because I’m not good enough.
- Growth mindset: Mistakes are normal. Mistakes mean I’m trying. I can learn from my mistakes and grow from them.
- Fixed mindset: This task is hard for me. I’m not smart enough to do it.
- Growth mindset: This task is hard for me. It will take effort and patience with myself to complete it. I’ll plan accordingly and ask for help when I need it.
3. Stay connected
Working from home certainly has its conveniences, but many may find it quite isolating. In isolation, we are more prone to self-doubt and biased thinking that makes us susceptible to imposter syndrome.
For example, it’s easier to assume that your colleagues never struggle or make mistakes and thus you’re a fraud if you do. Without the shared space of an office, colleagues miss out on the organic day-to-day interactions where they may be more likely to share their struggles and offer mutual support and reassurance.
Remember that seeking out these opportunities for support is important. Plan either a video meeting or in-person get-together with a coworker you get along with. Alternatively, talk to any friend who may be able to relate; you’ll soon realize you’re not alone in how you feel.
4. Take care of your mental health overall
It’s been a hard year and a half. You’ve endured a long list of changes and stressors. You’re much more susceptible to imposter syndrome when your mental health is suffering.
5. Get help if you need it
It’s okay to get help if you need it. There’s a difference between self-doubt that comes and goes and chronic feelings of inadequacy that may point to underlying mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Great Lakes Psychology Group connects you with a licensed therapist who accepts your insurance and is available to see you either online or in person.