Impostor Syndrome: How to stop feeling like a fraud at work

By Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder
Published: Feb 18, 2024
Feeling like a fraud at work is an experience many high achievers secretly share. In this article, we'll unpack the causes and impacts of impostor syndrome, as well as proven strategies to overcome self-doubt, harness creativity, and catalyze professional success by embracing an authentic self.
A woman sits at a desk with a contemplative expression, looking at a vintage typewriter, symbolizing the challenge of impostor syndrome in the workplace.

Feeling like a fraud at work is an experience many high achievers secretly share.

By understanding the psychology behind impostor syndrome, we can start to reframe accomplishments, adopt a growth mindset, and build resilience.

In this article, we’ll unpack the causes and impacts of impostor syndrome, as well as proven strategies to overcome self-doubt, harness creativity, and catalyze professional success by embracing an authentic self.

Let’s begin!

Defining Impostor Syndrome

A man sitting at a desk with a laptop, holding a plain white mask in one hand. There's a desk lamp, a coffee cup, and colorful pencils on the desk, against a blue background.

Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern where individuals doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Impostor syndrome is characterized by feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and not belonging despite evidence of success. 

Individuals experiencing it have difficulties internalizing their accomplishments and instead attribute their achievements to luck or other external factors. 

As a result, they live with a constant, underlying fear that others will discover they are an intellectual fraud. 

Common feelings include anxiety, lack of confidence, and feeling like an outsider.

Prevalence Among High Achievers

Studies show impostor syndrome is remarkably prevalent among high achievers and those in competitive environments. 

Up to 70% of people experience feelings associated with impostor syndrome at some point in their career. 

It’s especially common in high pressure jobs and industries like academia, finance, tech, and healthcare. 

High performers tend to struggle with it more as accomplishments raise expectations.

How do you get over impostor syndrome at work?

A person in a business suit sits at an office desk, wearing a white mask covering their face. They are giving a thumbs-up with one hand while holding a telephone receiver to their ear with the other hand. In the background, there are shelves with binders and trophies.

Overcoming imposter syndrome in the workplace can be challenging, but there are effective strategies to build confidence and resilience.

Know You’re Not Alone

Imposter syndrome is incredibly common, even among high achievers. 

Recognizing that many others grapple with self-doubt can help alleviate feelings of inadequacy.

Distinguish Humility and Fear

Feeling humbled by new responsibilities is normal. 

But imposter syndrome is often rooted in irrational fear rather than humility. Identifying the difference is an important first step.

Let Go of Perfectionism

Holding yourself to unrealistic standards often worsens imposter syndrome. 

Strive for excellence rather than perfection – it’s ultimately more sustainable.

Track Accomplishments & Celebrate wins

Keep a record of your accomplishments, praise received, and goals met. 

Concrete evidence of achievements can counteract feelings of fraudulence.

When you do succeed, allow yourself to enjoy it rather than diminishing your contributions. Give yourself credit.

Talk About It

Confide in a trusted mentor or manager about your self-doubt. Their reassurance and advice can be invaluable. 

Speaking up also reminds you that many successful people feel this way.

View failures as learning opportunities. 

Reframe setbacks as chances to improve rather than signs that you are an impostor. Learn from mistakes.

Focus on helping others. 

Shift the focus from doubts about yourself to how your work impacts other people. 

Making a positive difference can boost self-worth.

Say “Yes”

Take on new challenges and opportunities whenever possible.

Stepping outside your comfort zone helps build legitimate confidence and skills.

Focus on self-care

Reduce stress and anxiety by prioritizing healthy habits like proper sleep, diet, and exercise. Seek counseling if negative self-talk persists despite self-help efforts. Prioritize your mental health.

With self-awareness, rational thinking, and support, the fraudulent feelings will decrease. Have patience and remember that persistence builds confidence over time. 

What matters most is continuing to challenge yourself and add value through your work.

What are the 4 P’s of impostor syndrome?

A hand raising 4 fingers

The 4 P’s of imposter syndrome refer to common behaviors and thought patterns associated with this phenomenon:

  • People Pleasing – Going out of your way to seek validation and approval from others. This often stems from the belief that you are undeserving or incapable.
  • Perfectionism – Holding yourself to extremely high standards and feeling like a failure if you do not achieve unrealistic expectations. Perfectionists tend to focus more on mistakes than accomplishments.
  • Paralysis – Being unable to move forward or make decisions due to self-doubt, overanalysis, and fear of failure or criticism. This leads to procrastination.
  • Procrastination – Putting off tasks or avoiding challenges altogether due to low self-confidence in your abilities. This prevents growth opportunities.

Overcoming imposter syndrome requires identifying these patterns and reframing your self-perception. 

Set realistic standards focused on learning and growth rather than perfection. Seek constructive feedback and find communities of belonging. 

Small wins build confidence over time. The key is self-compassion – talk to yourself like you would a good friend.

The Roots of Impostor Syndrome

A woman holding a white mask and pointing forward with one finger symbolizing impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome can stem from various root causes that perpetuate feelings of self-doubt and fraudulence. 

By understanding some of the potential triggers, we can start addressing the core issues.

Perfectionism and Self-Worth

Perfectionistic people often struggle with impostor syndrome. 

When you hold yourself to extremely high standards, falling short of perfection can severely damage your self-confidence. 

This makes you feel like a fraud who doesn’t deserve your position or accomplishments.

To combat this, learn to celebrate small wins and focus more on growth than perfection. 

Understand that mistakes are opportunities to improve, not signs that you are an impostor. 

Fear of Failure and Learning from Failures

The inability to cope with failure can also worsen impostor syndrome. 

People with intense fear of failure interpret setbacks as evidence that they don’t deserve their success.

However, failure is part of growth. 

Reframing failure as a learning opportunity rather than a defining trait can help alleviate impostor thoughts. 

Analyze what went wrong and make changes. The most successful people often fail the most because they take risks and learn from mistakes.

Belonging and Inclusion

Feeling like you don’t belong or are underrepresented can also amplify impostor syndrome. 

This often stems from competitive environments lacking diversity and inclusion.

Fostering a culture where people feel welcomed and supported is crucial. 

Building community can help alleviate self-doubt and create a sense of belonging. 

By better understanding root causes like these, organizations and individuals can start addressing impostor syndrome at its core. 

The key is creating psychologically safe environments for people to grow, fail, and belong as their authentic selves. This builds confidence, resilience, and wellbeing over time.

The Psychological Impact of Impostor Syndrome

Two women sitting having a conversation about impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome can have significant negative consequences if left unaddressed. 

Persistent feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy take a toll both professionally and personally.

Anxiety, Depression, and Mental Well-being

When impostor feelings are ignored over time, they can lead to increased anxiety, stress, and even depression. 

The constant pressure to over-perform just to prove you belong can be exhausting. This deteriorates mental health and well-being. 

Practicing self-care and addressing the root issues is critical.

Stagnation in Career Development

Impostor syndrome causes talented individuals to undervalue their abilities. 

Feeling like a fraud often prevents people from taking on leadership roles or pursuing promotions. 

Overcoming self-limiting beliefs is key to professional growth.

Undermining Workplace Confidence

Self-doubt has a corrosive effect on confidence in one’s professional abilities. 

People with impostor syndrome tend to discount positive feedback and focus on the negative. 

Building confidence requires identifying accomplishments objectively. Reminding yourself of proven successes can help erode irrational feelings of inadequacy over time.

External Support and Personal Resilience

Two women hugging and supporting each other

Confiding in Colleagues and Fostering Inclusion

Opening up to trusted colleagues about feelings of impostor syndrome can help normalize these experiences in the workplace. 

Knowing that others share similar self-doubts can make one feel less alone. 

Fostering an inclusive environment where people feel comfortable expressing vulnerabilities without judgment is key. 

Some ways managers can help:

  • Host small group discussions to share challenges and reframe unhelpful narratives
  • Emphasize that no one is expected to be perfect or know everything
  • Recognize different working and communication styles
  • Check in individually and appreciate people’s unique strengths

An inclusive culture that embraces diversity can alleviate impostor syndrome.

Professional Counseling for Personal Growth

Counseling with a therapist trained in impostor syndrome can provide customized coping strategies. Through counseling one can:

  • Identify root causes of impostor feelings like perfectionism or difficult childhood dynamics
  • Develop new cognitive patterns to replace irrational beliefs
  • Build self-confidence through affirmative exercises
  • Learn vulnerability, mindfulness and stress reduction techniques
  • Gain perspective by tracking accomplishments vs negative self-talk

Seeking professional support enables insightful self-work to overcome impostor syndrome.

How to Help Someone with Impostor Syndrome

If someone confides they feel like a fraud, take it seriously. 

Speaking up requires courage. Offer respect, understanding and reassurance. Avoid diminishing their experience. 

Recommend counseling if distress persists. Importantly, shift the focus to their proven talents. 

Highlight concrete examples that contradict their self-doubts. Remind them of qualifications, positive feedback and promotions earned on merit. Reinforce that mistakes and struggles are normal. 

It takes compassion and patience to help counter impostor syndrome. The aim is to build self-efficacy so accomplishments feel earned through ability, not luck.

Conclusion: Embracing Your Authentic Self

A woman with long dark hair wearing a white sweater, eyes closed with a serene expression, holding her hands over her heart.

Overcoming impostor syndrome is an ongoing journey of self-discovery and personal growth. 

By cultivating self-compassion, seeking support, and focusing on learning and development, anyone can move past feelings of fraudulence.

The Journey of Personal Growth

Learning to accept yourself and recognize your abilities is essential to overcoming imposter syndrome. 

Be patient with yourself and celebrate small wins and milestones of progress. 

View setbacks as opportunities for growth. Surround yourself with people who appreciate you for who you authentically are.

Transforming Impostor Syndrome into a Catalyst for Success

Rather than allow self-doubt to hold you back, use it as fuel to better yourself. 

Let the discomfort of impostor syndrome motivate you to step outside your comfort zone, take on new challenges, and build your capabilities. 

The more you achieve, the more evidence you will have of your abilities. 

In this way, impostor syndrome can catalyze tremendous personal and professional success.

promotional banner offering digital marketers for $5/ hour

Related Posts

Cam Velasco

CEO & Co-Founder

Unlock your marketing potential with Floowi

Share This