Understanding and Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a feeling of uncertainty and self-doubt that pushes individuals to underestimate themselves and doubt their own success. This syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of their profession or level of achievement. Experienced as an "eternal questioning”, the feeling of not being legitimate and the terrible fear of being "exposed": this "imposter syndrome" is an insidious ailment that affects many people but can be tamed with the right techniques.

In this article, we share the causes and symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, as well as solutions to overcome it.

Symptoms of Imposter Syndrome

The symptoms of Imposter Syndrome may vary from person to person, but they often include:

  • Feeling inadequate, even in the case of success.
  • Fear of being discovered as a "fraud."
  • Excessive self-deprecation and minimizing one's own skills and achievements.
  • Procrastination and difficulty making decisions.

The phenomenon was theorized in the late 1970s by two American psychologists, and while it is not considered a pathology, it is a subject that concerns "many people" and serves as a "breeding ground for burnout," according to Anne-Françoise Chaperon, psychotherapist and consultant in the prevention of psychosocial risks.

Causes of Imposter Syndrome

The deep causes of this Imposter Syndrome are often related to a lack of self-confidence and feelings of insecurity. It can be caused by several factors, such as:

  • Past failures or negative criticism that undermined self-confidence.
  • Comparisons with successful people or people perceived as more talented.
  • Social, professional, or educational pressures to achieve a high level of performance.

Solutions to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

It is possible to overcome Imposter Syndrome by adopting effective strategies, such as:

  • Self-evaluation: Admitting that you suffer from Imposter Syndrome is already a first step. If you suffer from at least two of the following symptoms, you have Imposter Syndrome:
  • You regularly find yourself procrastinating or, on the contrary, putting disproportionate energy into certain tasks.
  • You are devastated when even a partial failure occurs.
  • You panic or feel guilty about success.
  • You belittle or minimize your skills in case of success, attributing it to luck, chance, etc.
  • You want to be the best, even if it means being too perfectionist, to avoid the risk of being "exposed."
  • Recognizing Successes and Skills: Take the time to recognize your past successes and your current skills. Make a list of your achievements and skills to remind yourself of your strengths.
Self-recognition - Popwork
  • Avoiding Comparisons: Avoid comparing yourself to others and focus on your own journey and goals. Rely on the elements that you have been able to identify in your various Popwork check-ins.
  • Changing Your Mindset: Replace negative thoughts with positive and encouraging thoughts. Adopt a growth mindset that encourages you to learn and continuously improve.
  • Asking for Help: Ask for help from friends, colleagues, your manager, or professionals to support and help you overcome your doubts and fears.

One of Your Employees Has Imposter Syndrome?

If a manager suspects that an employee has Imposter Syndrome, they can take the following steps to identify and manage this problem:

  1. Establish a Positive and Supportive Work Environment: Creating a work environment that encourages open communication and risk-taking can help reduce the pressure that can exacerbate Imposter Syndrome.
  2. Identify Signs of Imposter Syndrome: Managers should be attentive to signs of Imposter Syndrome, such as self-deprecation, fear of failure, and procrastination. Once identified, the manager can address the issue with the employee and help them understand what they are feeling.
  3. Help the Employee Recognize Their Skills and Accomplishments: Managers can help employees recognize their skills and accomplishments by encouraging them to make a list of their past successes and discussing the progress they have made in their work. Popwork check-in includes a question dedicated to achievements, which allows the employee to become aware of their successes during the week. If the employee does not report any accomplishments for several weeks, do not hesitate to help them identify and highlight them during your 1:1 meeting.
  4. Encourage Personal and Professional Development: Managers can help employees with Imposter Syndrome by encouraging them to educate themselves, attend conferences, and take courses to acquire new skills and strengthen their confidence.
  5. Hire a Coach or Mentor: Managers can also consider hiring a coach or mentor to help employees with Imposter Syndrome overcome their doubts and improve their self-confidence.
empathetic manager - Popwork

A good manager should act with empathy and understanding when working with employees with Imposter Syndrome. Provide additional support and guidance to help employees overcome their self-doubt and develop their self-confidence. Ultimately, by helping employees overcome Imposter Syndrome, managers can help strengthen their team and their company as a whole.

Imposter Syndrome can be difficult to overcome, but it is important to remember that most people suffer from it at some point in their professional lives. By adopting the effective strategies mentioned above, it is possible to overcome Imposter Syndrome and regain self-confidence.