Self-doubt: How Impostor Syndrome Can Hold You Back At Work

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You are suited up and ready to impress!

On your way to a job interview for a company that you care about, you brought a C.V. that highlights how perfectly you fit in the position you applied for. You are more than qualified for the position, and the team would be lucky to have you. The hiring manager said so himself!

However, you start questioning whether you are capable of the job as you meet the company’s supervisor. Self-doubt can cripple you and hinder your success.


Impostor Syndrome is the overwhelming feeling that you do not deserve success. You become convinced that you are not talented, attractive, intelligent, or capable as you may seem. You suspect that your achievements are due to luck, good timing, and other external factors.

Particularly in male-dominated environments, impostor syndrome has been thought to affect women more than men. However, recent study showed that it affects both genders equally.

A person with impostor syndrome (impostor) has a sense of being a fraud, a difficulty internalizing his or her success, and a fear of being discovered. Usually, the stressor triggering impostor syndrome involves getting a new opportunity such as a new job or an advanced degree.

“The person who achieved this level of success begins to have negative thoughts that the success was not really earned. These negative thoughts, which are often referred to as ‘cognitive distortions,’ are based on fear and anxiety and not based in objective facts.” – Ms. Cara Maksimow, LCSW


An impostor may procrastinate or put off assignments due to the fear of being unable to complete the necessary ambitious standards. On the other hand, the imposter may over-prepare by spending too much time on the task. If his or her behavior creates a successful outcome, it will be written off as luck or fluke in the system.

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Success can create a cycle of self-doubt for imposters. Even when they achieve important milestones, they are unable to recognize their own achievements. Instead of celebrating these, the impostors are worried that others will discover the “truth” about their abilities. This is an irrational thought.


There are many ways to manage the impostor syndrome. Here are just some of them:

a. Create a list of your strengths and prior accomplishments at work. Refer to this list when you are questioning yourself.

b. Talk to mentors who are more experienced in the field, when you feel like you do not belong in the situation.

c. Set realistic goals. Often, a fear of failure and a need to be the best can lead to overachievement.

d. Acknowledge what you are feeling. Do your best to keep a journal. Whenever you experience feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy, write your thoughts down. Be specific about why you are feeling this way.

e. Handling with Impostor Syndrome takes long-term effort. You need to employ strategies to deal with it at particularly stressful situations. When the negative self-talk takes over your mind, try to confront it by distancing yourself from the “emotional power” of the voice.

Sources: 1, 2, & 3


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