You’re Good Enough: Fighting Imposter Syndrome

By
Ken Burnette

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is an ongoing feeling of doubt in your abilities and accomplishments—and sometimes even your identity. 

People with imposter syndrome might question whether they’re deserving of their job, their status, and even their success. 

They think that they’re a fraud, and that any day now someone is going to find out they’ve been faking it all along. 

What are the signs of imposter syndrome?

Some signs that you may have imposter syndrome include:

  • Agonizing over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in your work.
  • Attributing your success to external factors, such as luck or the kindness of others.
  • Low self-efficacy—believing that you are less capable than other people.
  • Perfectionism—having unreasonably high standards for yourself and/or your work. This can manifest in many ways, including avoiding starting a project because you're not confident it will turn out "perfectly" or seeking approval excessively (e.g., asking multiple people to review what should be a simple email).
  • Under-confidence, which is when you discount your achievements and minimize their value to others. You may also express hesitation about taking on new tasks because of the fear that you will be found out as a phony and exposed as someone who does not deserve his/her role or position in life.

Mental health and imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome can be linked to depression and anxiety, which might contribute to the experience of feeling like an imposter. If you have symptoms of imposter syndrome, this could be a sign that you're also struggling with other mental health issues.

If you think you're experiencing impostor syndrome, it's important to talk about what you're feeling with a doctor or therapist. They'll likely want to know if you've experienced symptoms such as:

  • Oversensitivity to criticism or rejection
  • Problems sleeping (too much or too little)
  • Feeling isolated from people in your life who care about and support you
  • Low self-esteem that doesn't improve even when praised for success

It's important not to ignore these warning signs because any one of them has the potential to become a full-blown mental health issue. For instance, if left untreated for too long, anxiety can lead to panic attacks, and depression can lead to thoughts of self-harm.

How to work through it and thrive

There are a number of ways to work through imposter syndrome. 

First, find comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Even super successful people can have imposter syndrome! 

(read to the end for a great story on that 😄)

This can be hard to do when we feel like we're "the only one" and that everyone else has it all together. In reality, imposter syndrome can impact anyone who has big goals and dreams—you aren't the first person to struggle with self-doubt, and you won't be the last. 

  • Recognize imposter syndrome in yourself and others. Being able to recognize these feelings is an important first step in working through them.
  • Find a support network of people who understand what you're going through, especially those in your field or industry who have already been down this path before you.
  • Find a mentor or trusted advisor who can help guide you and provide support during times when your self-confidence is low.
  • Learn how to set boundaries with yourself so that your expectations don't get out of hand (that's easier said than done!). Be mindful of your mental health by taking time away from work on a regular basis. Schedule breaks into your day, make sure to get enough sleep at night, and make room for hobbies outside of work as well!
  • And if at any point along the way you find that your imposter syndrome is interfering with your ability to do your job, speak up! There are always resources available if you need extra help. Just remember that no one will judge or criticize you for asking for assistance! You've got this 😎

When to look for another job

Fighting imposter syndrome can be a rewarding journey in self improvement and personal discovery.

But what if your imposter syndrome is a symptom of a toxic work environment?

How do you know if you should stick it out, or search for a new job?

It could be time to look for a new job if:

  • You’re always exhausted. Working hard is one thing, but being constantly exhausted and drained from work is an entirely different situation. People who work hard at a job they care about feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. They generally still have energy to do things they enjoy outside of work. If you’re constantly exhausted, it might be time to look for a new job.
  • You feel like you have to choose between caring for yourself and your wellbeing, or keeping your job. You shouldn’t have to choose between your mental health and your employer’s expectations. If your health is suffering, it might be time to move on.
  • You have major anxiety about starting work on Monday. If your Sundays are ruined by the impending Monday workday, you might want to start looking for a new job. It’s normal to feel a bit anxious about Monday sometimes, but it should not be a consistent feeling of dread. 
  • Your job is hurting your relationships. If your relationships are being neglected, consider investing less time in your work. At the end of the day, your family and friends will be there for you, and you’re replaceable at work. Make sure to prioritize what matters most to you in your life.

If you think it's time to look for a new job, reach out and let us know. We have professional guidance available for you, no matter where you are on your career journey.

Our career consultants currently work at Google, JPMorgan, Amazon, Microsoft, Reddit, Oracle, Uber, Cisco, J&J, and many more companies of the same caliber. If you're looking to advance your career or even switch industries completely, getting advice from people in your target industry is an incredibly valuable way to get ahead.

Imagine having someone in your corner to guide you, to help you make the right connections, and even help you prepare for your interviews.

Our career consultants can get you hired at the best companies.

We've helped thousands of people land their dream jobs, and we can help you get there, too.

Now check out this awesome story!

The greatest imposter syndrome story

As promised, check out what might be the greatest story about imposter syndrome from this post:

Back in grad school, I was sitting in class one day discussing my own problems with imposter syndrome with a friend; I felt like I wasn't good enough to be in the program I was in, and was waiting for my adviser to realize her mistake and fire me from my lab.
Our instructor, a tenured professor, overheard me and came over. She then shared the following story:
A few months prior, my instructor had given a keynote talk at a conference about a research project her lab was working on. That evening, she went out for drinks with a couple other scientists, including Steven Chu. If you're not familiar, Dr. Chu is a Nobel Prize winning physicist and served as the US Secretary of Energy. At the time the story takes place, Chu had recently resigned as Secretary of Energy and taken a position at Stanford, where he'd been given a huge lab and a mountain of funding.
As my instructor and the scientists are chatting over drinks, Chu turns to my professor. The following conversation ensues:
CHU: I have to say, I found your talk today very frustrating.
INSTRUCTOR: What? Why? Was there something wrong with my research?
CHU: No, no, the opposite! It was perfect!
INSTRUCTOR: ...I don't follow.
CHU: It's just...I've just been given this huge lab, right? All this funding? Everyone's expecting great things from me. Except...I have no idea what I'm doing! I had one big success early in my career, and I feel like I'm still riding the coattails of it. I finally thought I had an idea for a decent study to do, but it turns out that's exactly what you're already working on, and you're doing it way better than I could've! I feel like any day someone is going to realize they made a mistake and fire me.
Guys, this is Steven Chu. A scientist so talented he was put in charge of energy policy for one of the most powerful nations on earth. A man who was given a solid gold medallion whose only purpose it to say "the owner of this is one of the greatest scientists who ever lived."
Every time I feel like I'm not good enough, I remember that story, that even Nobel Laureates can suffer from impostor syndrome. Sometimes you just have to relax, and trust that the people who put you where you are know what they're doing.

‍Conclusion 

We've taken a look at the signs and causes of imposter syndrome, and what you can do to find balance, overcome it, and begin to see yourself as worthy. By turning to those around you for help, whether through a mentor, a coworker, or your family and friends, you can build a support network that will help you through hard times. 

The more informed you are about the syndrome and its symptoms, the more likely you are to pinpoint instances of it when they occur. From there, working through it becomes a matter of taking small, daily positive steps forward. Whether that means starting a side business or picking up a new skill, getting outside help from others, or simply reminding yourself that you have worth regardless of your accomplishments, the key is knowing that it can be overcome, and understanding that you’re not alone.

If you want one-on-one guidance at any stage of your job search, we can help.

We can update your resume, make your LinkedIn shine, apply to jobs for you, and even prepare you for your interviews.

We love helping people find their dream jobs.

It's our thing.

And we'd love to help you find yours.

Be sure to reach out to me on LinkedIn and/or Instagram with any questions or comments!

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Ken Burnette
Senior Copywriter & Voice of Wonsulting

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