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Getting Control of Impostor Syndrome

by Kevin Bellah

Often, when someone expresses discomfort or feelings of incompetence concerning their job, friends and family are quick to reassure them. Rather than listening and acknowledging there may be a problem, they blame impostor syndrome. This doesn’t help as how can you know if you are genuinely experiencing impostor syndrome or if you should be concerned about your skills?

Feel Confident with Your Education

If you have less education than your peers, it is easy to feel like an impostor at work. Perhaps you started at an entry-level job and moved up through promotions, while others entered the workforce at a higher level. It can be challenging to feel that you belong when others, maybe a decade younger than you, are at the same point in their career, or even your supervisor.

It’s never too late to return to school. Earning your degree can give you the confidence you need to lose the impostor syndrome. You may have assumed that college wasn’t for you after high school graduation. Times change, and so do people. If finances are holding you back, consider taking out a student loan to cover your education costs. Private lenders provide loans for school, and you can qualify without the need for a cosigner.

Know That You Earned Your Position

If you landed your job through networking, a referral, or some other connection, you may feel you wouldn’t have been hired without the help. While the connection may have put your resume where it would be noticed, it is unlikely you were hired as a favor or because of a friendship. It is easy to feel like you don’t belong in your position if your coworkers are not your peers. Working with others who are younger, more assertive, or quicker to speak up may make it seem like everyone else is always a step ahead of you. The fact is, many overly confident people have no reason to be so, and many people are quick on their feet in meetings but lack other qualities, such as attention to detail, that are important for success.

Pay Attention During Performance Reviews

Receiving negative feedback is never fun, but it is an effective way to assess your job performance. Don’t assume any negative comments mean you are underperforming. Instead, look at them objectively and determine if impostor syndrome could be to blame. For example, if you consistently shy away from taking on new projects, rarely speak up or press a point in meetings, and are habitually late with your work, self-doubt, not incompetence, may be the reason.

Don’t look at the negative statements on your performance reviews as an indication your job is on the line. Instead, consider each one, and come up with a plan on how you will improve. Maybe you will spend time before meetings preparing a list of statements, questions, or updates so you have something to discuss. Perhaps you will decide to jump at the next opportunity that may seem out of your league. It is unlikely your supervisor will hand you duties they don’t believe you can handle. You may find that others have much more confidence in you than you have in yourself.

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