What is Impostor Syndrome, and How Do We Cope With It?

Impostor syndrome is a term that has become popularized into our everyday vocabulary in the last few years. The Harvard Business Review defines impostor syndrome as “ a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” This can be especially prevalent in the workplace when you feel like you are massively under qualified to be in the position that you have. However, you did get the job, right? So doesn’t that mean that you are qualified to be there? Dealing with impostor syndrome isn’t an easy fix. However, here are a few steps to get you started on changing your mindset. 

Allow Yourself to Feel

Suppressing how you are feeling and just trying to move past it will only make your problems worse. Accepting that you are feeling this way is the first step to healing. This doesn’t mean accepting that you are inadequate, because you’re not. It means identifying invasive negative thoughts and understanding that that’s what they are.

Find the Cause

What is the root cause of these feelings? The answer may be complicated, but if you can at least figure out the cause of your impostor syndrome, then you can begin your journey to putting your mind at ease. Is it a particularly difficult project that you’re working on? Was it something that someone said? Did you just enter a meeting where all of your colleagues are older and therefore have more work experience and more qualifications than you? Whatever it is, pinpointing it will help you.

Contextualize the Situation

Take a deep breath, and focus on the present. What are you trying to accomplish right now? Impostor syndrome a lot of times is accompanied by feelings of overwhelm. You feel like you have built a house of cards and one day it will all come tumbling down. Rather than focusing on shortfalls and the thoughts that you’re not good enough, focus on your successes. Think of some of the various things that you did that guaranteed your success. You can and will succeed again. 

Reach Out

Is there someone you can talk to about your impostor syndrome, and just generally about how you’re feeling so that you’re not just bottling all of this up? Human beings are complicated, and there is no “one size fits all” approach when it comes to our feelings and experiences. Is there someone who knows you well who can help you with your specific situation? Reach out to them. Having someone else contextualize your situation and validate your feelings can help a lot in the healing process. 

Think of the last time you were faced with a situation that you felt unqualified for and succeeded? What steps did you take in order to ensure your success? 

“Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.”

– Neil Gaiman

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