Think you don't deserve your job? Worried that one day your boss will sniff you out? You might be experiencing impostor syndrome.
You stand up. Clear your throat. Tap the spacebar on your laptop and watch your presentation appear on the screen next to you. “Oh heck, I hope nobody realises that I have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about. Please please please let me trick them into thinking I've got this.”
Deep down, you think that you don't deserve the job that you have. That you're somehow unworthy of your accomplishments. If that sounds familiar, you may be experiencing impostor syndrome. Within this guide, we will take a look at everything you need to know about it.
What is impostor syndrome?
First things first, let's talk about what impostor syndrome (also spelt imposter syndrome) is. As the name suggests, this phenomenon is all about feeling like an impostor. Many people experience this in the workplace. Regardless of how high you climb on the career ladder, you may feel like you don't deserve your success. When people tell you that you've done well, you won't believe them.
The jury's out when it comes to how common impostor syndrome is. A recent review of more than 60 studies suggests that somewhere between nine and 82% of people have experienced it at some point. There are plenty of ways that this issue can manifest. You may feel anxious when you have to give a presentation or secretly think you can't do your job. If that sounds familiar, take some solace in the fact that you're not alone in harbouring these fears.
What causes impostor syndrome?
Impostor syndrome can strike any of us. When you start to experience it, you may wonder what the cause is. There are many reasons that you might feel unworthy in your job.
If you're wondering “do I have impostor syndrome?”, maybe you were a high achiever in school? If so, you might put too much pressure on yourself to excel in the workplace. However, when you go out into the working world, there's often no measure of how well you're doing. For that reason, many people presume that they don't deserve the role that they have. Without the positive reinforcement of A grades, you may feel insecure.
It doesn't end there. Experts have suggested that impostor syndrome is linked to specific personality types. The traits that are most likely to lead to the condition include high levels of neuroticism, perfectionist tendencies, low levels of confidence, and poor conscientiousness.
Signs you have impostor syndrome
Worried that you're experiencing impostor syndrome in the workplace? Noticing the signs will help you to identify it and do something about it. With that in mind, here are some of the side effects of impostor syndrome that may be familiar to you:
Continuous self doubt
People who are experiencing impostor syndrome will often be plagued by self doubt. This is one of the biggest signs and likely the first that you'll notice. No matter how accomplished you are in your chosen career, you may worry that you're not good enough. You won't trust your own judgements and think that someone else will figure out you're a fraud.
Ignoring any praise you get
If your boss or manager tells you that you've done well, how do you feel? Do you believe their words or do you think they are placating you? Do you shrug it off? If you find it hard to accept, or even believe, praise, you might be experiencing impostor syndrome.
You try to hide your flaws
When you secretly think that you don't deserve your job, it can make you paranoid. You may feel as though you're constantly trying to hide your flaws. For example, you might think that you're poor at writing reports and be looking into ways to prevent your boss from noticing.
You feel guilty for tricking people
Consequently, you may feel guilty for tricking the people closest to you – such as your manager. If you truly believe that you're not right for the job that you have, you may feel as though you are conning your way through life. That is a negative thought pattern.
How impostor syndrome holds you back at work
Impostor syndrome can bring your career progression to a halt. There are a couple of reasons for this. First up, when you don't believe that you have what it takes to excel in the workplace, you might not put yourself forward for promotions or new positions.
Your mindset can limit you. So, when a dazzling new role becomes available, you may overlook it. Equally, failing to sing your own praises on your CV means that new employers have no way of knowing how much of a catch you really are. Put simply, you could be letting incredible opportunities slip through your fingers simply because you are lacking the confidence you need.
If you're looking to get ahead (and you should be), it's worth continually looking for ways to improve your standing. That may mean investing in extra training, such as online courses, or development opportunities within the workplace.
As you gain these experiences, be sure to update your CV accordingly. Having this document prepared and ready to go could make a major difference to your job search. Rather than having to completely overhaul your CV every time you want to look for a new job, you should be constantly updating it. Think about it as a work in progress - whenever you hit a new, impressive milestone, add it in.
Having an up-to-date CV, complete with all your latest achievements, will do wonders for your career confidence and prospects. In seconds, you can easily show yourself and a potential employer what you have to bring to the table. Whenever you feel that wobble of self-doubt creeping into your mind, reflect back on this document and check out your many merits.
How to get over impostor syndrome at work
If you're worried that you're experiencing impostor syndrome, there are some approaches you can use to overcome it. Of course, it's important to note that this problem can be linked to anxiety and other mental health issues. It's worth visiting your doctor if you are also experiencing the symptoms of anxiety. If not, try the following tips:
Talk to someone you trust
As we have already covered, impostor syndrome could be more common than you think. When you're worried about this issue, speaking to a trusted friend or family member could be a huge help. Chances are, they have felt like you have before now. Sharing your experiences and fears with someone who believes in you may help to dispel them.
Look for mentorship at work
If you're worried that you're not making the grade, one of the best things you can do is look for a mentor. Learning from a professional above you may help to give you the confidence boost that you need. Not only will you continue your education, but you'll also gain feedback from them as you learn and grow. Why not speak to your manager about this option now?
Challenge negative thoughts
One of the biggest lessons you'll learn is that thoughts are not facts. When you have a negative thought about yourself or your abilities, understand that it's not necessarily the case. Make a habit out of challenging these negative thoughts as they arise.
Revamp your CV
When was the last time you updated your CV? Revamping this document is a sure fire way to show yourself how far you've come. When you're in the depths of impostor syndrome, it can be easy to forget all of your accomplishments. Laying them out on paper changes that. There will be no way to ignore the awards, training, education, and experience you've gathered.
There are ways of dealing with impostor syndrome - it isn't a permanent state of being. While it won't happen overnight, use our advice to move forward and take control once again. Take small steps every day and you'll notice a big difference.
Ready to take your next step on the career ladder? Why not get a free CV review from our experts to ensure you're putting your best foot forward? TopCV can help you to banish those negative thoughts by drawing out your successes, giving confidence to both you and the hiring manager that you're capable of fulfilling the role.