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How to crush workplace imposter syndrome

14 Nov 2019 By Sarah Jones

Reminding yourself of your successes, and reframing your failures as opportunities to learn, can provide you the morale boost you need, says Sarah Jones

Many people succumb to feelings of imposter syndrome, and it is actually much more common than you think. Even those who present themselves as being the most confident and most well-equipped for their role can succumb to the grips of negative feelings and low self-confidence at some point in their career. 

I particularly endured these feelings when I was first made a leader – I felt like I was making it up as I went along during a time of huge change, with a large team and no training, coaching or mentoring on how to lead. I had to remember I was ultimately good at my job. So how do you crush feelings of imposter syndrome and remind yourself you deserve your role in the workplace? Here are three ways:

Recognise it and reach out 

The first step is to recognise your feelings of imposter syndrome and not be silent about them. The sense of inadequacy and the idea that you are only in your role by fluke can quickly eat away and spiral into a bigger problem if you do not seek support from others. A period of uncertainty is natural as sometimes we do not always have the energy to give our role 100 per cent – use this as a period of learning and take the necessary time you need to regroup. 

Everyone’s experiences are different, so there is definitely no shame in needing help from others, but it is important to acknowledge it so you can take the right steps to move forward. Others around you can help you to differentiate between what is fact and what are just your feelings. 

Remember your strengths

Many people will avoid speaking about or acknowledging their strengths out of fear of appealing boastful or overly confident. However, it is more than likely you are well-equipped to be in the role you are in. Reflecting on your career to date and the skills you have gained along the way provides a helpful reminder of exactly why you deserve to be in your position. It can also help you see where you need extra development to take the next step. Rather than this being a drawback, it’s an opportunity to continue your learning. Make a list of your strengths and your successes you can come back to in times of doubt.  

No-one is going to be the best at everything. It is important that you do not frame your self-worth around what you cannot do, but focus on what it is that you can. Particularly as a leader, you need to recognise that others may be more skilled in certain areas, but this is ok – it is important to let them shine for the benefit of the team. 

Reframe your perception of failure

When something doesn’t go to plan, it can quickly make you question all your skills and suitability for the role, not just the event in question. By reframing your perception of failure and viewing it as an opportunity for growth, you can feel more comfortable that when things don’t go as intended it is not a completely negative reflection of your skills. New ideas are not likely to go to plan straight away so be prepared to adjust and look at the situation objectively, rather than as a reflection of you personally.

You deserve to be exactly where you are today and the skills you have accumulated along the way have equipped you for success. Celebrate them and take every challenge in your stride.

Sarah Jones is an accredited leadership, talent development and team productivity coach, trainer and speaker and founder of Sarah-J Coaching

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