Navigating imposter syndrome: overcoming self-doubt in your career

Imposter syndrome

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong in your job or industry? Have you ever doubted your abilities and achievements, even when others praise you? Have you ever feared being exposed as a fraud or an impostor? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be suffering from Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that affects many people in the workplace, especially high-achievers, minorities, or new to their roles. It is characterized by persistent inadequacy and self-doubt, despite evidence of competence and success.

This blog post will explore what Imposter Syndrome is, how it affects your career, and how you can overcome it. We will also share some practical strategies and techniques to boost your self-confidence and empower others who struggle with Imposter Syndrome. By the end of this post, we hope you will feel more confident and capable in your career and less prone to self-doubt and impostor feelings.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

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What is imposter syndrome, and how does it affect people differently? Imposter syndrome is the psychological phenomenon that makes you feel like a fraud, even when you have evidence of your competence and success. It is characterized by a persistent sense of inadequacy and self-doubt, despite your achievements and accomplishments. You may feel like you don’t belong in your job or industry or that you are not as smart or capable as others think you are. You may also fear being exposed as an impostor or a phony by your peers, superiors, or clients.

Imposter syndrome can take various forms and manifestations, depending on your background, personality, and circumstances. According to researcher Dr. Valerie Young, there are five impostor types

  • The Perfectionist: This type of imposter syndrome involves believing that, unless you were perfect, you could have done better. You feel like an impostor because your perfectionistic traits make you assume that you’re not as good as others might think you are.
  • The Expert: The expert feels like an impostor because they don’t know everything there is to know about a particular subject or topic, or they haven’t mastered every step in a process. Because there is more to learn, they don’t feel they’ve reached the rank of “expert.”
  • The Natural Genius: In this imposter syndrome type, you may feel like a fraud simply because you don’t believe you are naturally intelligent or competent. If you don’t get something right the first time or it takes you longer to master a skill, you feel like an impostor.
  • The Soloist: It’s also possible to feel like an impostor if you ask for help to reach a certain level or status. You question your competence or abilities since you couldn’t get there independently.
  • The Superperson: This type of imposter syndrome involves feeling like you have to excel at everything and be the best at what you do. You feel like an impostor because you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and struggle to balance multiple roles and responsibilities.

To recognize the symptoms and signs of imposter syndrome in yourself or others, you can look for some common indicators, such as: 

  • Crediting luck or other reasons for any success
  • Fear of being seen as a failure
  • Feeling unworthy of attention or affection
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Feeling undertrained
  • Minimizing positive feedback
  • Overpreparing
  • Not trying for fear of failure
  • Distrust of others
  • Negative self-talk

The psychological roots and contributing factors of imposter syndrome can be traced to various sources, such as: 

  • Early childhood experiences: Family expectations and the value of success and perfection in childhood can stay with an individual throughout their life.
  • Cultural and societal expectations: Different cultures put different values on education, career, and different definitions of success.
  • Individual personality traits: Perfectionism, neuroticism, low self-efficacy, and high need for achievement can lead to imposter syndrome.
  • Cognitive distortions: Impostors tend to have distorted thinking patterns, such as overgeneralizing, catastrophizing, discounting the positive, and personalizing.

The Impact of Imposter Syndrome on Your Career

How does imposter syndrome affect your career, and why is it important to overcome it? Imposter syndrome can hurt your confidence and performance, as well as your career advancement and personal growth. It can also affect your relationships with colleagues, managers, and clients. Here are some of the ways that imposter syndrome can harm your career:

  • It can make you feel insecure and inadequate in your role, leading to lower self-esteem and self-efficacy.
  • It can make you avoid taking risks or challenging yourself, limiting your potential and opportunities.
  • It can make you work harder than necessary, leading to burnout and stress.
  • It can make you procrastinate or avoid tasks that you fear you will fail at, affecting your productivity and quality of work.
  • It can make you reject or downplay positive feedback, preventing you from learning from your successes and recognizing your value.
  • It can make you seek external validation or approval, making you dependent on others’ opinions and expectations.
  • It can make you compare yourself unfavorably to others, creating envy, resentment, or isolation.
  • It can make you feel guilty or ashamed of your achievements, making you doubt your worthiness and authenticity.

Imposter syndrome is not a rare or uncommon phenomenon. It is estimated that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point. Some of the most successful and influential people in the world have admitted to feeling like impostors, such as Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Emma Watson, and Albert Einstein. Imposter syndrome does not discriminate by gender, age, race, or profession. It can affect anyone who has high standards for themselves or who faces new or unfamiliar situations.

Identifying Imposter Syndrome in Yourself

How can you tell if you have imposter syndrome, and how can you measure its severity? Imposter syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis but a subjective experience that varies from person to person. Therefore, no definitive test or scale determines if you have it or how much it affects you. However, some self-reflection exercises can help you assess whether imposter syndrome impacts your career and well-being. Here are some examples:

  • The Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS): This is a 20-item questionnaire that measures the frequency and intensity of impostor feelings. You can rate each statement on a scale from 1 (not at all true) to 5 (very true) and calculate your total score. The higher the score, the more likely you will experience imposter syndrome. You can find the CIPS online [here].
  • The Impostor Syndrome Quiz: This is a 12-item quiz that assesses your level of impostor syndrome based on four dimensions: perfectionism, expertise, natural genius, and soloist. You can answer each question with yes or no and count how many yeses you have. The more yeses you have, the more likely you are to suffer from imposter syndrome. You can take the quiz online [here].
  • The Impostor Syndrome Journal: This self-guided journaling exercise helps you identify and challenge your impostor’s thoughts and feelings. You can write down your answers to the following prompts:
    • What are some situations or tasks that trigger your impostor syndrome?
    • What negative thoughts or beliefs do you have about yourself or your abilities in those situations or tasks?
    • What are some evidence or facts that contradict or challenge those negative thoughts or opinions?
    • What positive affirmations or statements can you say to yourself to boost your confidence and self-esteem in those situations or tasks?

By doing these self-reflection exercises, you can gain more insight into your impostor syndrome and how it affects you. You can also differentiate between genuine self-awareness and unfounded self-doubt. Self-awareness is the ability to recognize your strengths and weaknesses and areas of improvement and growth. Self-doubt is the tendency to question or undermine your competence and worthiness, regardless of your achievements and feedback. Self-awareness is healthy and helpful, while self-doubt is harmful and hindering.

Another way to identify imposter syndrome in yourself is to seek feedback from others who know you well, such as mentors, colleagues, or friends. You can ask them for honest opinions about your skills, performance, and potential. You can also ask them for specific examples of when they were impressed by your work or when they saw you overcome a challenge. Doing so gives you a more objective and realistic perspective on your abilities and accomplishments. You can also learn from their constructive criticism and praise.

However, when seeking feedback from others, be careful not to rely too much on their validation or approval. Remember that you are ultimately the best judge of your worth and capabilities. You don’t need others to tell you what you already know: that you are intelligent, capable, and deserving of success.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

How can you overcome imposter syndrome and stop feeling like a fraud? Imposter syndrome is not something you can easily get rid of, but rather something you can learn to manage and cope with. Some effective strategies and techniques can help you overcome imposter syndrome and boost your confidence and self-esteem. Here are some examples:

  • Cultivate a growth mindset and reframe negative thoughts: A growth mindset is believing that your abilities and skills can be improved through effort and learning. A fixed mindset is the belief that your abilities and skills are innate and fixed. Impostors tend to have a fixed mindset, which makes them feel inadequate and insecure. To overcome imposter syndrome, you need to adopt a growth mindset, which makes you feel optimistic and resilient. You must also reframe your negative thoughts into more positive and realistic ones. For example, instead of thinking, “I don’t know how to do this; I’m such a fraud,” you can think, “I don’t know how to do this yet, but I can learn and improve.” Doing so can change your perspective and attitude toward challenges and failures.
  • Embrace failures and use them as learning opportunities: Impostors tend to fear failures and avoid them at all costs. They see failures as proof of their incompetence and unworthiness. However, failures are inevitable and essential for growth and success. To overcome imposter syndrome, you must embrace failures and use them as learning opportunities. You must accept that failures are not personal or permanent but rather feedback and guidance. You need to analyze what went wrong, what you can do better, and what you can learn from the experience. Doing so can turn failures into stepping stones for improvement and achievement.
  • Set realistic goals and celebrate achievements: Impostors tend to set unrealistic goals for themselves and feel dissatisfied with their accomplishments. They always aim for perfection and never feel good enough. To overcome imposter syndrome, you must set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements. You need to break down your big goals into smaller and more manageable ones and track your progress and performance. You also need to acknowledge your achievements and accomplishments, no matter how big or small. You must reward yourself for your hard work and effort and appreciate your value and contribution. By doing so, you can boost your motivation and self-esteem.
  • Build a support network and seek professional help if needed: Impostors tend to isolate themselves and suffer in silence. They feel ashamed of their impostor feelings and afraid of being exposed or judged. However, you do not have to deal with imposter syndrome alone. To overcome imposter syndrome, you need to build a support network and seek professional help if needed. You need to surround yourself with people who support, encourage, inspire, and challenge you. You need to share your impostor feelings with someone you trust, such as a mentor, a colleague, a friend, or a therapist. You need to seek advice, feedback, guidance, or counseling from someone who can help you cope with your impostor syndrome. By doing so, you can reduce your stress and anxiety, increase your social connection, and gain more confidence and courage.

Techniques to Boost Self-Confidence

How can you boost your self-confidence and feel more confident and capable in your career? Self-confidence is the belief in your abilities and skills and your value and worth. Self-confidence is essential for success and happiness in your career, as it affects your performance, motivation, and satisfaction. However, self-confidence is not something that you are born with or that you have all the time. Self-confidence is something that you can develop and improve with practice and effort. Some techniques can help you boost your self-confidence and feel more confident and capable in your career. Here are some examples:

  • Acknowledge your strengths and accomplishments: One of the best ways to boost self-confidence is to acknowledge your strengths and achievements. You need to recognize and appreciate what you are good at and what you have achieved in your career. You need to list your skills, talents, qualities, and achievements and review them regularly. You must also update your resume, portfolio, or profile with your latest accomplishments and feedback. By doing so, you can remind yourself of your capabilities and contributions and reinforce your positive self-image.
  • Keep a success journal to track progress and positive feedback: Another way to boost your self-confidence is to keep a success journal to track your progress and positive feedback. You must write your daily or weekly goals, actions, results, and learnings in your journal. You also need to write down any positive feedback or compliments that you receive from others, such as your colleagues, managers, or clients. Doing so can measure your performance and improvement and celebrate your successes and achievements. You can also use your journal as a source of motivation and inspiration when you face challenges or setbacks.
  • Practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself: A third way to boost your self-confidence is to practice self-compassion and be kind to yourself. You need to treat yourself with the same kindness and respect as others. You must avoid harsh self-criticism and negative self-talk, replacing them with constructive feedback and positive affirmations. You must also forgive yourself for any mistakes or failures and learn from them instead of dwelling on them. Doing so can reduce your stress and anxiety, increase your happiness and well-being, and improve your self-esteem and self-worth.
  • Take care of your physical and mental well-being: A fourth way to boost your self-confidence is to take care of your physical and mental well-being. You must maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, and relaxation. You must also engage in activities that make you happy, such as hobbies, interests, or passions. By doing so, you can enhance your physical health and appearance, as well as your mental health and mood. You can also boost your energy levels, creativity, and productivity.

Empowering Others to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

How can you empower others who struggle with imposter syndrome and create a more positive and supportive work environment? Imposter syndrome is not only a personal issue but also a social issue. It can affect not only yourself but also your colleagues, managers, and clients. Therefore, empowering others who struggle with imposter syndrome and creating a more positive and supportive work environment for yourself and others is essential. Here are some examples of how you can do that:

  • Be a supportive colleague and create an inclusive work environment: One of the ways to empower others who struggle with imposter syndrome is to be a supportive colleague and create an inclusive work environment. You must respect and appreciate your colleagues’ skills, talents, and contributions. You must give constructive feedback and praise and avoid harsh criticism or judgment. You must also create a culture of collaboration and cooperation rather than competition and comparison. Doing so can help your colleagues feel more confident and valued and foster a sense of belonging and trust.
  • Encourage open conversations about self-doubt and vulnerability: Another way to empower others who struggle with imposter syndrome is to encourage honest conversations about self-doubt and vulnerability. You must share your impostor feelings and experiences with your colleagues, managers, or clients and invite them to do the same. You need to create a safe space where people can express their fears, challenges, and struggles without fear of being exposed or judged. You must also listen empathetically and offer support, advice, or guidance. Doing so can help others feel less alone and isolated and more understood and accepted.
  • Provide mentorship and guidance to those struggling with imposter syndrome: A third way to empower others who struggle with imposter syndrome is to provide mentorship and guidance to those struggling with imposter syndrome. You need to identify and reach out to those who may suffer from imposter syndrome in your workplace, such as new hires, minorities, or high-achievers. You must offer your expertise, experience, and wisdom and help them navigate their career challenges and opportunities. You must also model confidence and authenticity and inspire them to overcome self-doubt and impostor feelings. By doing so, you can help others grow and succeed in their career and build lasting relationships.


In this blog post, we have explored imposter syndrome, how it affects your career, and how you can overcome it. We have also shared some practical strategies and techniques to boost self-confidence and empower others struggling with imposter syndrome. By implementing these strategies and techniques, you will be able to:

  • Understand imposter syndrome and its different forms and manifestations
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome in yourself or others
  • Identify the psychological roots and contributing factors of imposter syndrome
  • Assess the impact of imposter syndrome on your career performance and satisfaction
  • Identify imposter syndrome in yourself through self-reflection exercises and feedback from others
  • Overcome imposter syndrome with effective strategies and techniques, such as cultivating a growth mindset, embracing failures, setting realistic goals, building a support network, and seeking professional help if needed.
  • Boost your self-confidence with techniques such as acknowledging your strengths and accomplishments, keeping a success journal, practicing self-compassion, and taking care of your physical and mental well-being.
  • Empower others who struggle with imposter syndrome by being a supportive colleague, encouraging open conversations, and providing mentorship and guidance.

We hope that this blog post has helped you gain more insight into imposter syndrome and how to overcome it. We also hope you feel more confident and capable in your career and less prone to self-doubt and impostor feelings. Remember that you are not alone in this struggle and have the potential and power to achieve your career goals. You are not a fraud; you are a success.

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