You Belong! Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

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By Johnathan Folino

Have you ever felt underqualified for a job you’ve already secured? Does your peers’ work intimidate you? Do you find yourself comparing your progress to those around you, ultimately feeling as though you aren’t cut out for a position?

Let me stop you right there. You’re experiencing the symptoms of imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the phenomenon when one doubts their skills and accomplishments. They feel as though they are not worthy of the praise they receive or the position they hold which is accompanied with the fear of being exposed.  

Day in and day out, we are assigned to new tasks, work on recurring ones, and meet with our team to discuss progress and next steps. For those with imposter syndrome, this seemingly simple process can appear as intimidating and stressful. Even though one has already proved themselves to their employer and has earned their role in their current job, many have doubts that they aren't truly cut out for the position.

The phenomenon is more common than you may think – a 2011 study found that nearly 70% of people will experience imposter syndrome in their lifetimes. It can happen away from work too. In any situation that requires us to work on a team or collaborate with a group, the likelihood of an individual feeling that they lack adequate skills is high.

How Do I Cure Imposter Syndrome?

It may not seem as easy as it sounds, but have confidence in yourself! It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and forget about your previous successes and hard work that brought you to your current position. Starting small and praising yourself for accomplishments is a subtle reminder of the work you are capable of and the recognition it received.

A study by Dr. Valerie Young in her book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, categorized five different types of people who suffer from imposter syndrome. One must first identify themselves to learn new habits and techniques in combating the negative feeling that comes with Imposter Syndrome.

The sub-groups are broken down into perfectionists, superwomen/men, natural geniuses, soloists and experts:

Perfectionists: The individual who doesn’t stop until their work is in its most perfect form. They often feel fearful that they’ll begin to doubt it if it isn’t to their best standard.

  • How to combat: Accept that mistakes happen and learn from them. Use the opportunity for growth, rather than telling yourself your work wasn’t good enough.

Superwomen/men: The individual who pushes themselves to work harder than their colleagues, as they feel their contributions haven’t been on par with the rest of the team.

  • How to combat: Use your team as a resource. You all work for the same company or strive for a common goal. Put your work out there for more criticism and take feedback in stride.

Natural geniuses: Those who have learned things easily in the past and get frustrated when new concepts are difficult to master.

  • How to combat: Break down your bigger goal into smaller, tiered goals that are viewed as milestones. Instead of stressing about the big picture, you can set mini-checkpoints to assess your progress and ensure that you master more difficult objectives with confidence.

Soloists: Those who fear seeking help and guidance as peers may interpret them as unfit for the role.  

  • How to combat: Accept help and guidance as a part of the process that allows you to grow and become more confident in your skills.

Experts: Individuals who base their success on their knowledge. They fear being exposed because they don’t know everything about a topic or how to approach a situation properly.

  • How to combat: Accept that you may not know everything and use it as an opportunity to learn. Strive to make yourself an expert in new topics by asking questions and seeking support.

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