If you’ve ever felt like you were a fake and was just lucky to be in a position, while everyone else knew exactly what they were doing and deserved their success, then you likely experienced imposter syndrome.
What is imposter syndrome?
Imposter syndrome isn’t just a bit of self doubt or humbleness. It has you question your accomplishments (even if objective reality backs up your abilities) and you live in fear of being found out as a fraud. You spin in a vicious cycle of putting in extra work to make up for your perceived deficits, and you believe that any resulting success is just luck. Next time you have to work even harder to hide your secret. It’s exhausting to live in that state of anxiety.
And guess what? Imposter syndrome is extremely common. Most people feel it at some point, even those at the top of their game. This article notes that Albert Einstein, Serena Williams, Jennifer Lopez, and Tom Hanks have all experienced imposter syndrome.
Given how common it is, having imposter syndrome really isn’t the issue. How it cripples you is the painful part.
How imposter syndrome can hold back your career
In a career setting, you might skip over valuable opportunities due to distrust in your own skills. For example:
- You don’t apply for roles that challenge you and offer advancement
- You lack confidence to highlight your accomplishments during interviews
- You don’t ask for a well-deserved promotion or raise
Your health and relationships might also suffer when you burn yourself out trying to cover your imposter tracks.
Please be kind to yourself.
You were likely taught to believe that success looks a certain way and the path there is rigid. But your path has been different. And it’s just as valid. You have found success by being creative and diligent with the resources you’ve been given. You have risen to challenges and continue to do so. You still have so much potential to explore. Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back any longer.
It’s time to make friends with your imposter syndrome
If imposter syndrome is common and not going away, it’s time to befriend it so you can move forward together.
Picture that your imposter syndrome is the new kid at school lurking in the shadows of the bleachers watching everyone else have fun on the playground. She’s watching how all the other kids behave and noticing all the things she can’t do or does differently. But she’s forgetting that she has unique ideas and experiences. Let’s give her a reassuring hug and invite her out into the light, so she can show us a new game to play!
Your career journey is your own game. Make up your own rules and have fun with it! Stop comparing yourself to someone playing a different game. You can both have a good time, but differently.
To stay focused on your career game, try:
- Creating a digital folder where you store praise and thanks from your managers, teammates, and clients
- Documenting and celebrating your wins regularly
- Tracking the skills that you have developed and the things you’re learning now
- Saying positive affirmations when you doubt yourself
- Confiding in your biggest cheerleaders
- Remembering that emotions come and go
When you experience fear and anxiety associated with imposter syndrome, turn to these anchors to remind yourself that you are where you are for good reason. You have actively made it happen. You deserve to be here and you can take the next step as well.
If your imposter syndrome feels too heavy to manage on your own, holistic career coaching can help you develop strategies to overcome self-doubt and move into meaningful action. Book a free 20-minute career consultation to learn more.
Crystal Lee, MPH, CPCC is a holistic career coach who helps relocating job seekers and career changers find clarity, confidence, and community in their new environments. Let her know if you have a career question! If you find her content helpful, please consider donating to her tip jar.