How To Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Believe it not, an estimated 70% of people will experience imposter syndrome at least once in their life. In fact, people who identify as female, BIPOC, or as members of the LGBTQI+ communities are often most affected. Learning how to overcome imposter syndrome in the workplace can increase job satisfaction, stave off burnout, and have positive impacts on mental health and well-being. 

But perhaps the biggest issue of all is lack of awareness, as 76.6% of women and 76.3% of men don’t even know what imposter syndrome is, let alone see the signs they’re experiencing it themselves.

The good news is that combatting this psychological issue is fairly straightforward. Discover concrete ways business leaders can help raise awareness around imposter syndrome and do their part to improve employee well-being. 

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological fallacy that makes people think they are inadequate or unworthy of respect and praise. 

Those who experience it report feeling insecure, stressed, and afraid. This belief that they’ve somehow cheated the system or got to where they are because of pure luck can have a lasting impact on thoughts and behavior. 

Although imposter syndrome isn’t listed in the DSM, it’s often associated with anxiety and depression. 

How does imposter syndrome impact work?

Imposter syndrome leads to stress, workplace tension, lost sleep and productivity, and even long term career issues. Not to mention the effects it has on personal health and well-being for those experiencing it. 

And it doesn’t just cost them. Businesses lose at least $3,400 per year for every employee who experiences the decrease in productivity and mood caused by imposter syndrome. 

How serious is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is fairly serious. In addition to the losing money, businesses with employees who experience feelings of extreme inadequacy experience:

  • More interpersonal issues.
  • A decrease in overall workplace satisfaction.
  • Increased opportunity for project failure due to lack of self-confidence and risk-taking.

What causes imposter syndrome?

According to the American Psychological Association, feeling like a fraud is often a result of too much pressure to achieve. Imposter syndrome can also be caused by lack of managerial support, toxic workplace culture, and underrepresentation of marginalized groups. 

How do you overcome imposter syndrome?

You can overcome imposter syndrome by understanding the specific beliefs you hold about yourself that may not be true and combating them in tangible ways. 

For example, let’s say your imposter syndrome has made you believe that you don’t work hard enough. You can log your daily activities on to a spreadsheet or journal and reference it as proof that you accomplish a lot more than your mind wants you to believe. 

Interrupting destructive thought patterns is a great short term solution. But long term feelings of self-doubt and shame are best treated with:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy 
  • Career and personal counselling 
  • Daily positive affirmations 
  • Taking better care of your health in general 

Meditation, mentorship, and self-love rituals are also helpful tools. 

How to help someone with imposter syndrome

Did you know company directors and HR managers can actually help their employees learn how to overcome imposter syndrome? 

You can help someone with imposter syndrome by first considering how their personal identity and cultural background may affect the way they view themselves. Then, if they’re open to it, start a conversation about a recent comment that sounded like imposter syndrome. 

Encourage them to be proud of their own work. Use concrete examples of their accomplishments and wins. Ask if there’s anything you can do to reduce their workload or alleviate any feelings of overwhelm they experience at work. 

Some people prefer not to talk about these emotions due to embarrassment or discomfort. In that case, don’t force it. Disrespecting an employee’s boundaries will only make the experience worse for them. 

However, that doesn’t mean company directors and HR managers are off the hook. It just means that they will have to work much harder to embed imposter syndrome awareness and education into the fabric of their operations. 

How can work help someone with imposter syndrome?

Help someone with imposter syndrome at work by clearly communicating expectations, properly distributing workloads, and promoting healthy habits. Here are some ways to improve mental health in the workplace

  1. Improve inclusivity 
    Focus on strengthening your workplace culture through inclusion programs that support minority groups, especially those who are underrepresented in the company. Create more inclusive recruitment and advanced career development practices. And consider utilizing employee training on microaggressions both on and offline. 
  2. Spotlight harmful rhetoric
    Speak on destructive mindsets that are popular within your industry. Hustle culture is one example. 
  3. Be transparent
    Use team collaboration software to help individuals see what other people are working on and combat distorted self-evaluations with tools that make their own progress visual. As an added bonus, project management tools make it easy to evenly distribute workloads, so no one is too overwhelmed with tasks. 
  4. Encourage friendship
    Prioritize healthy relationship-building between managers and employees. Trusting one another makes it easier for them to believe compliments. It also creates an environment where people are less afraid of failure, which is imposter syndrome’s best mascot. 
  5. Provide concrete examples of their success and achievements
    Celebrate individual employee success by publicly acknowledging their accomplishments. Then — and most importantly — describe how those wins directly tie into the effort and skill set they brought to the project. 
  6. Educate employees
    Share tips on taking care of mental health while working from home such as scheduling break time and keeping a regular sleeping cycle.
  7. Support mental health
    Promote healthy work-life balance by sharing clear and reasonable expectations for employees’ online or clock in/out times. Consider including gadgets that promote holistic wellbeing in employee compensation packages. 

Tackle imposter syndrome and create lasting change

As you can see, overcoming imposter syndrome is a team effort. The right people, policies, and tools can go a long way towards helping those who have it and preventing others from feeling it too. 

Help make your business a better place with a work management solution like Wrike. Use our free trial to relieve workplace pressure through visual progress markers, transparent communication, and realistic assignments that take employees’ needs into account.

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