Congratulations! You finally got that great new job or promotion you’ve been working toward. Everything’s great now, right?
Well, maybe not if you feel like you don’t deserve it, and you’re convinced that everyone will soon find out you’re a fraud. In short, you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, that insidious feeling of inadequacy that seems to persist no matter how much you accomplish.
But it’ll pass once you get used to your new role, won’t it? Won’t you grow out of these feelings with time and experience?
Possibly, yes. But not necessarily. Let’s look at if – and how – you can “grow out of” imposter syndrome, as well as times that might not be the case, and what you can do then.
Some evidence that time does help
First, the good news. Some evidence shows that the older the generation you’re from, the less likely you are to experience imposter syndrome.
For instance, one survey found that while 58 percent of Millennials and 66 percent of Gen Z were likely to experience imposter syndrome, only 41 percent of Gen X and 25 percent of Baby Boomers were.
While there could be other factors involved, this does seem to confirm the idea that the older we are and the longer we’ve been in our careers, the less likely it is that imposter syndrome will maintain a hold on us.
You might grow into your role, become more comfortable with who you are, develop better coping skills, or likely a combination of all of these. So yes, in general, it’s possible to grow out of imposter syndrome with time, age and experience.
However, some people do appear to be more susceptible to imposter syndrome and less likely to “grow out of it.” Let’s look at some of those scenarios, then see what you can do about it.
Some things that may hinder you from growing out of imposter syndrome
#1: It’s part of your ‘personality’
We know from observation that some people are more susceptible to imposter syndrome. Often, it’s less about your Myers and Briggs, Enneagram or DISC type, and more about how you’re used to thinking and feeling about yourself.
- You’re a perfectionist
- You're prone to self-doubt in general
- You worry excessively about what other people think
- You’ve never felt “good enough”
- You score high in Neuroticism on the Big Five personality model, which means you’re more prone to negative emotions like fear, guilt, and self-doubt.
What you can do about it: You may have to actively work on these tendencies in order to enable you to really move past imposter syndrome. In the meantime, being aware of these patterns, naming them and refusing to give them power over you can help you rise above them.
For example, you could remind yourself, “oh, that’s just my perfectionism talking. I don’t have to be perfect to excel at what I do.” Or, “I am good enough or I wouldn’t have gotten the job / attracted these quality friends” or whatever it is you’re doubting about yourself.
#2: You keep moving up the ladder
While many people struggle with some feelings of imposter syndrome when they reach a new level in their career, after a while in their new role they likely will start to feel more comfortable and confident.
However, the new abilities and confidence you gain will likely cause you to keep moving on up.
That next step could come in the form of another promotion, more responsibility, a growing reputation, increased earnings, or any other measure of prestige or success. While that may be great for your career and life, it may not be great for moving past imposter syndrome.
If you don’t overcome the root causes of imposter syndrome for you, chances are it will keep coming back every time you accomplish something new.
What you can do about it:
Remember how you felt early in your previous role, and how you overcame feelings of imposter syndrome then. Look back on what you’ve achieved in the past, even when you thought you were in over your head.
There’s usually some element of ‘fake it until you make it’ with any growth. Just remember that you have the ability to keep learning, and what used to feel hard feels natural now.
One of the ways to challenge imposter syndrome is to realistically look at what you’ve accomplished and why you deserve your success. In other words, you can reflect on each new level of achievement to conquer self-doubt with self-confidence. You just have to keep reminding yourself to do this, as it’s easy to fall into old patterns of doubting your legitimacy with each new achievement.
#3: You don’t change how you think
Overcoming imposter syndrome is much like a fitness journey: you can evolve from self-doubt and build bigger self-confidence muscles – but it takes active effort rather than a passive wait for change.
Often, the key to getting fit is about changing your attitude around exercise. Exercise requires you to be assertive over your own body and push yourself every time you’re in the gym. In the same way, the key to overcoming imposter syndrome is to actively change your thinking patterns. It requires you to be assertive over your mind and challenge your doubts.
What you can do about it: Simply – get out of your own way. Imposter syndrome is, to a degree, of your own making. So, you have the power to solve it by changing your mindset and how you evaluate yourself.
Enlist the help of a friend, coworker or mentor if you need to. They can bring much-needed perspective to your achievements, helping you separate your negative self-talk from the objective truth. You can also task them with making sure you recognize, own and celebrate each success.
Summing it up
If you’re simply feeling a bit overwhelmed in a new role, you likely will grow out of it as you gain experience. And of course, most of us do become more confident with age.
But there are personality traits and thought patterns that could cause you to perpetuate imposter syndrome. In those cases, it’s less likely that you automatically will “grow out of it,” but you can consciously adopt attitudes and actions that can help you overcome it.
Either way, you don’t have to remain stuck in imposter syndrome or let it keep you from working toward new goals or enjoying the ones you’ve already achieved. So, in a larger sense, whether the change comes naturally or through your own efforts, yes, you can grow out of imposter syndrome.