Experiencing imposter syndrome at the workplace can be more than just stressful—it can put you on a roller coaster of emotions, and the ride is mostly unpleasant. You’ll feel like a fraud, you’ll feel anxious, and you will experience self-doubt, even in areas where you typically excel.
Feeling like a phony isn't anything to do with the job, your coworkers or the environment you're in, either. Mostly, it's about your own insecurities and self-doubt. And that means the feelings of inadequacy you have felt in previous roles and environments could follow you into a new job and mess everything up if you let them.
Your best course of action is to manage the symptoms of imposter syndrome upfront, before they have a chance to take over. Here are six actions you can take before you start a new job to make sure you're the boss of your imposter syndrome, not the other way around.
#1 Study imposter syndrome like a scholar to find out what it’s truly all about
It’s possible you’re still in denial about the destructive role imposter syndrome has played in your life. You might think it's not so bad or you're only mildly affected by it. This type of denial can prevent you from facing the truth and make it harder to put some good self-management techniques in place.
The first step then, is to learn more about imposter syndrome. It doesn't look the same in everyone. In fact, there are five different types of imposter syndrome, each with its own set of triggers and characteristics. The more you understand about your own specific type, the better equipped you'll be to tackle it head on.
#2 Make a list of how imposter syndrome has previously shown up in your life
Once you’ve learned about the specific types of imposter syndrome, see if you can link them to your behavior and emotional responses in the past. Have you agonized over the smallest mistake on a project? Did you respond poorly to constructive criticism? Did you downplay your achievements or let someone else take credit for your work?
Make a list of these instances and reflect on them. This task will challenge you. You’ll have to dig deep and remember how the confidence-draining thoughts you had and the actions you took made it hard for you to do your best work without being overwhelmed by anxiety.
However, recognizing these patterns is empowering. You’ll get a clearer view of your own distorted thinking, and that will help you prepare better for similar challenges in your new role.
#3 Start building your self-esteem
Strategies for building your self-esteem will vary from person to person and depend on what you feel comfortable with. Some people will thrive on positive affirmations to combat negative thoughts. Others might prefer to take a self-development or motivational course, or undertake more practical activities such as setting small goals and achieving them.
Whatever you choose to do, go into it with the mindset that you’re fully capable of addressing a self-esteem problem. Working on your self-image won’t produce miracles overnight, but over time you should build greater self-confidence and a stronger sense of self-worth, both of which are necessary to control imposter syndrome in your new job.
#4 Come to terms with your perfectionism
If you're dealing with imposter syndrome, you might notice that your perfectionist tendencies become exaggerated. You might be extremely hard on yourself, interpreting minor mistakes as major failures and even viewing your successes as flukes. The positive push that perfectionism can sometimes provide gets lost, leaving you feeling like nothing you do is ever good enough.
To a very real extent, coming to terms with imposter syndrome means coming to terms with perfectionism. Think about how you can manage the drive to be perfect, and start accepting "good enough" as an acceptable outcome. You'll probably need a friend to help you stay accountable or to point out when you're being too demanding of yourself. Getting the outside perspective will help you work towards a more balanced perspective.
#5 Reflect on your peak performances and victories
When did you last rise above your imposter syndrome and succeed despite your insecurities? When did you go with the flow and truly trust in your own abilities?
This may not have happened as often as you’d like. But it will have happened on occasion, and these moments of triumph can teach you valuable lessons about what has worked for you and what hasn’t. You may be stunned to realize that you already know how to overcome imposter syndrome, and that it's just a matter of translating your best instincts into consistent action.
#6 Talk your issues over with someone you can trust
Imposter syndrome isn’t something you should keep to yourself. Sharing your frustrations, uncertainties and doubts with a trusted friend can help you make sense of your feelings and experiences, and possibly help you figure out what to do next.
Ideally, confide in someone you worked alongside in a previous job. They will know a lot about what you achieved and what you are capable of, and they will be able to frame their advice in a way that's relevant to your new role. You may even find out that they had similar struggles and can offer valuable insights or tips on how to manage imposter syndrome at work.
Embrace the new role with an open mind
Imposter syndrome is all about bad inner messaging. When you tell yourself that you’re unworthy of accolades or recognition, you’ll transform into your own worst enemy.
However, there's a silver lining. Once you actively manage imposter syndrome, countering it with positive and hopeful messages, it will begin to lose its influence over your thoughts and actions. Do this work before you start a new job, and you'll be able to walk into your new role with a clear mind and confident attitude, ready to showcase all the skills and talents they hired you for.