Imposter syndrome is becoming ever more problematic in the modern world. As energy costs soar and workers struggle to make ends meet, workplace stress is becoming more and more prevalent. That’s why in this article we’ll discuss:
- The signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome
- How to address the causes of the syndrome
- Ways to overcome workplace stress
Ready to give stress at work the boot and say goodbye to imposter syndrome for good? Keep reading as we show you how…
Have you ever felt like a fraud at work or in school? If so, you might be experiencing the phenomenon called imposter syndrome. Thanks to the ever-increasing demands of modern life, there is a growing number of people feeling like they just aren’t good enough – even though they are.
The sense of being fraudulent, feeling self-doubt or like you don’t fit in can happen to anyone at any point in life. This sense of deception is generally at odds with how people around the sufferer truly perceive them, but it feels real to the point where it can be extremely distressing.
To make these feelings of inadequacy go away, sufferers of the syndrome may find themselves working longer hours, taking on extra studies or holding themselves to unrealistically high standards. This doesn’t usually work as the perception wasn’t founded in reality to start with, and can lead to further anxiety or full-blown mental breakdowns.
So, what are the signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome?
For some, the signs of imposter syndrome can initially be very subtle and may even go unnoticed. For others, a trigger such as starting a new job or preparing to sit for an exam can trigger intense feelings of distress.
Common signs & symptoms of imposter syndrome include:
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feeling anxious or depressed
- Feeling like you have to earn worthiness
- Feeling like you are a fraud
- Doubting yourself or feeling inadequate
- Fear of being outed as a fake
Alongside feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, many suffers will also have an ongoing personal narrative which seeks to justify the way they feel. For example, some may attribute their success to luck or privilege, or belittle their achievements by saying anyone could have done it.
They may also have a sense that everyone around them is doing well and that they are the only ones struggling, even though this is rarely the case. As sufferers of imposter syndrome are often quite caring or contentious, they are ironically least likely to lie about their abilities or do a bad job.
What causes imposter syndrome?
There are so many causes of imposter syndrome, and these causes very often have their roots in childhood. Perhaps your parents expected you to be a certain way when you were in school, or maybe you faced a lot of criticism no matter how you behaved. You might have struggled with concentration and always felt like you couldn’t keep up with the class or that you weren’t smart enough.
Whilst the root of the problem varies, the triggers tend to be quite common and are usually the result of added pressure. These triggers may be:
- Worsening of mental health disorders
- Starting a new job or school
- Losing a job or the end of studies
- The start or end of a relationship
- Learning something new or taking a test
- Starting a new work or academic project
No matter what the trigger of your imposter syndrome is, it’s always a good idea to take some time to talk about your feelings with someone you trust. This could be a family member, a friend, your doctor or mental health professional.
How to tackle imposter syndrome
- Reduce workplace stress
For many people dealing with imposter syndrome, it might feel like a logical solution is to work even harder. However, piling on the pressure will only exacerbate the issue and cause further stress.
Instead, take some time to consider how you could make your day-to-day less stressful. This could include:
- Delegating work to others
- Reducing your workload
- Taking regular breaks
- Regular check-ins with a colleague or manager
- Asking for a more flexible timetable
- Reducing your hours
There is no right or wrong way to do this, and if you work in a supportive and collaborative environment, chances are people will rally to assist you.
- Take a break
If you’ve made adjustments to your working day to make it a little easier and are still experiencing symptoms of imposter syndrome, it might be a sign that you just need to take a break from work.
There is no shame in taking time to rest, and holiday allowance is there for a reason. Take some time to adjust and reset – you might even return to work with a brand new perspective on things. Why not take this time to either go abroad and experience a new culture, or take a staycation and explore everything your local area has to offer?
- Try mindfulness
Mindfulness is a hot topic right now – and for good reason. It’s a powerful practice that can help to give you a completely different perspective on the situation as you observe things from a neutral point of view.
And what’s even better is that you can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere, whether it’s on the commute to work, during a break or as you feel the anxiety start to arise. Simply take a few moments to focus on your senses. What can you feel, see, hear and smell? What are the sensations arising in your body? Can you observe your thoughts and feelings without getting swept up in the narrative?
Observing feelings and thoughts from a non-judgemental standpoint can help to calm down your brain’s reaction to the things that stress you out. No matter how awful you might feel, returning your attention to the present moment can help you to reset, calm down and tackle things rationally.
- Reframe your situation
When it comes to anxiety, the thoughts that cause it to spiral often go unchallenged. We tend to believe our thoughts without question and allow them to tell a story that we are not good enough, or that we will get found out.
Now is the perfect time to challenge those self-doubts. Consider the following questions and apply rational thinking in contrast with those thoughts:
- Am I not good enough, or am I doing the best I can?
- Are these thoughts real, or is it just anxiety talking?
- Is perfection a realistic goal, or is it normal to make mistakes?
- Can mistakes be useful, and can I learn from failure?
- Should I know everything, or allow myself space to learn?
You might also find that your sense of identity is intertwined with what you do at work, and without realising it, may associate failure at your job with being a failure in life. This simply isn’t the case, and mistakes are perfectly normal. Not only that, but your performance at work has no relation to your value as a human being – zilch, nada, none.
- Consider the work culture
In some circumstances, feelings of unworthiness may stem from a lack of appreciation or toxic work culture. A good workplace should be a supportive and collaborative environment, where mistakes are tackled together as a team.
But what if you have a manager that likes to play the blame game, or perhaps you work with people competing against one another? It might be that your current workplace culture simply isn’t a good fit, or that your manager has unrealistic demands.
There is no need to internalise the effects of working for a company that doesn’t function healthily, so ask yourself if you’re doing something wrong or if the culprit is in fact, a toxic culture.
When is International Imposter Syndrome Awareness Day?
International Imposter Syndrome Awareness Day (IISAD) takes place each year on the 13th of April. The day seeks to raise awareness about the syndrome, whilst the website provides free handy resources and offers support to those who need it. It was founded by Nat Schooler, Kim Adele and Lisa Ventura (CyberGeekGirl).
Blog by Emily
Emily is an experienced content creator & writer, working with various national brands at a socially-conscious digital agency. She has a passion for finding fresh angles, whilst providing informative answers to the world’s most pressing questions.