Imposter Syndrome: Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Career Results
Do you ever feel self-conscious or inexperienced when compared to your coworkers? If so, you’re not alone; 70% of employees struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, or imposter syndrome. When it comes to your career, working with people who possess more knowledge and experience is actually essential to your growth and improvement. But when comparing yourself […]
Do you ever feel self-conscious or inexperienced when compared to your coworkers? If so, you’re not alone; 70% of employees struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, or imposter syndrome. When it comes to your career, working with people who possess more knowledge and experience is actually essential to your growth and improvement. But when comparing yourself to their qualifications becomes demotivating, that’s when imposter syndrome creeps in.
Today, more and more professionals are following a nontraditional career path, leveraging their innate talents and abilities to land roles with employers who hire based on competencies rather than education or experience. While this may prove effective for matching talented candidates with open positions, working alongside colleagues who have top academic pedigree and training can be a tough pill for them to swallow.
But it may not be all bad. In fact, there are some elements of imposter syndrome that can prove beneficial. After all, no one's born with knowledge and experience. It must be acquired over time, and adopting the right mind frame can help expedite the process. Here are a few ways you can use imposter syndrome to boost your career.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
This saying's meaning is that if you pretend to be something for long enough, eventually you'll become it. It's similar to the common professional advice, “Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.” In other words, to combat your imposter syndrome, you should walk, talk, look and behave like the person you want to become. Then, what started as a dream will become reality.
While this advice obviously has limits, there’s validity in projecting positive thinking and using it to manifest goal achievement. Not a big fan of Tony Robbins-style motivational rhetoric? Understandable. But one thing’s for sure: If you truly believe you can’t, you probably won’t. So before you can prove your value and expertise to others, you must first prove it to yourself.
Leverage Your People Skills
You might be surprised to learn imposter syndrome can actually improve interpersonal performance in the workplace. According to research by MIT professor Basima Tewfik, employees who lack confidence in their abilities may try harder to help out, cooperate with and encourage others. In one case study involving physicians-in-training, those who experienced imposter syndrome received higher ratings in interpersonal interaction from their patients and outside observers.
Since strong people skills are an asset in nearly every profession, try turning your feelings of self-doubt into a drive to build and strengthen working relationships. Supporting your colleagues will allow you to become a more effective employee, which may improve your confidence.
Harness The Motivation
Sometimes the best incentive for a runner to beat his or her personal record is competing with someone who runs slightly faster. That can be the case with imposter syndrome. If you can find a way to work through the fear and frustration, it can serve as the perfect motivation to improve and reach goals you may have thought impossible. Remember: If you’re already the best, there’s little incentive to improve. But if you work alongside people with more qualifications or experience, they can provide the push you need to surpass your personal best and reach their level—or beyond.
Seek Out A Mentor
Building on the previous point, it can be helpful to shift your mindset by seeing those who are more qualified not as your competition but as your professional coaches. Though you may be in competition with others when applying for a job, once hired, you’re all on the same team. Try to find teammates who will share their knowledge, and let them know you’re eager to learn from them. Those willing to serve as a mentor will welcome the opportunity to invest in your success.
Identify Upskilling Opportunities
While learning from coworkers is one of the best ways to gain knowledge, they may not have the time to teach everything you’d like to learn in the timeframe you’d like to learn it. Basing your progress on others’ schedules can let your imposter thoughts continue to grow as you wait. Instead, be proactive. Take advantage of learning and development opportunities offered by your employer, or look into online courses offered by sites like Udemy, Coursera or LinkedIn Learning. Combined with resources like blogs, articles, social media groups and professional organizations, you can build knowledge quickly.
Imposter syndrome can be hard to deal with and even more difficult to overcome. But there are advantages to being humble enough to know there’s more to learn and driven enough to want to improve. After all, the opposite of humility is egotism, and no one wants to work with someone who believes they’re better than everyone else. The key to turning imposter syndrome around is replacing your feelings of inadequacy with the determination to better your knowledge and skills. Once you do, those thoughts will gradually turn into confidence and self-assurance.
Article written by: Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family.
Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.