Resource Centre Career Development Imposter Syndrome and Its Impact on Your Career

Imposter Syndrome and Its Impact on Your Career

Most of us are often plagued with feelings of inadequacy and doubts especially when given a new role or project. You might have experienced these feelings sometime and feared you will mess up and people will discover that you are a fraud. This feeling is called the imposter syndrome and it affects almost everyone in a leadership […]

imposter syndrome

Most of us are often plagued with feelings of inadequacy and doubts especially when given a new role or project. You might have experienced these feelings sometime and feared you will mess up and people will discover that you are a fraud. This feeling is called the imposter syndrome and it affects almost everyone in a leadership position or positions of high expectations.

The imposter syndrome can cripple you mentally and deny you the impetus you need to take on tasks, because you feel like these tasks are above what you can deliver (even when in reality they aren’t) Click To Tweet.

So how would you know if you are suffering from the imposter syndrome? Below are pointers;

    1. You Don’t Like Being Praised 

      Imposter syndrome

Most people are shy when thrust in the limelight of praise for something done. While they know they deserve it, all that attention makes them uncomfortable. If you have imposter syndrome, however, you feel like you are not worthy of any recognition and you believe there is a more deserving person in the crowd. 

What to Do: You need to convince yourself that it is your doing. Look at the task critically and pinpoint specific components that led to its success. If you are responsible for these components or the bigger share of components then you deserve the praise. Yes, you are amazing. When you don’t take credit for things you do, you make it easy for others to take credit for your work and get all the recognition. Begin telling yourself that you deserve recognition and praise for things you do.

2. You Tend to Downplay your Achievements

Do you find it hard to talk about your achievements and sometimes cringe when someone mentions them? When someone talks about all those wonderful things you did you feel like they are exaggerating and giving you empty flatter? There is a difference between rubbing your success in other people’s faces and somewhat avoiding any association with it. It is almost as if denying the achievement seems easier because you are afraid of standing out.

What to Do: First understand what an achievement is. Then make a list of your achievements so far. Putting down this list helps your brain identify them and get accustomed to the idea that you have achieved. Imposter syndrome is a psychological condition, you have to constantly train your brain to identify and accept your achievements.

3. You Tend to Overwork


You are the one person in a group that is always ready to take on extra duties even if it kills you. You are that person always staying behind to work on a project even when it is not necessary. You do not know how to take a break because God forbid something goes wrong ‘because you took a little shut-eye’! The reason why you are unconsciously overworking yourself is because feeling tired and worn out is probably the only assurance of your input. In real sense, overworking denies you the chance to innovate because creativity is replaced by fatigue. it actually does more harm than good.

What to Do: Take a break once in a while. If you are a natural hard worker, identify areas where you might be overworking and fill that time with something else, maybe an interest. Understand that you can always work smart and achieve the goal faster and with lesser effort. Take a timeout, recharge and get back on the horse.

4. You Beat Yourself Up for the Slightest Mistake

This is one of the biggest weaknesses in overachievers. If you are an overachiever, the compulsion to always be the best is eerily familiar. Being the best is so important that you will beat yourself over and over again due to a simple mistake. This is an uncanny irony, considering the fact that people with imposter syndrome usually downplay their achievements and do not want to be recognized. So, imagine a scenario where you kill yourself to be the best and when you emerge top in performance you do not want the recognition! This means that your life is a raging battle of identity, knowing you must succeed but you don’t think you deserve the success.

What to Do: Keep telling yourself that you are not perfect and you will always make mistakes, till you believe it. This is not something that will change overnight. A good way of getting over a mistake is analyzing it (once not repeatedly!) Objectively go through the details and identify areas you could have acted differently then make a note for improvement. After this, as hard as it may seem, move on.

5. Your Glass is Always Half Empty

Image courtesy:

While there is a danger in dwelling in past successes as they may go to your head, there is a danger in not acknowledging them. If you are the person who is constantly fixated on what you haven’t done, targets you haven’t hit or the next project, there is a problem. Accomplishments have a good effect on your mood and general well being when recognized. If you are always on overdrive working to hit the next target, you are likely to burn out.

What to Do: Stop and celebrate the small wins. It gives you a break, as well as the motivation to keep working hard and anticipate the big wins. If you never recognize small accomplishments, you might not even recognize a big one when it comes. Must be why it is difficult to recognize achievements and take credit or them as mentioned above huh?

6. Fear of Failure Paralyzes You

It is not the mountains we conquer but ourselves. ~Edmund Hillary

Fear is one of the strongest emotions and the reason behind many actions and reactions. If you are always paralyzed by the fear of failure when faced with a new role, project or undertaking you need to examine yourself closely. A healthy amount of fear is okay because it makes us cautious and helps us prepare and come up with contingency plans. Fear that completely cripples you faculty, however, is a strong indication of the imposter syndrome. You are afraid of making mistakes because you are not supposed to fail, you are supposed to be the best hence, there is no room for mistakes.

What to Do: Fear of failure is brought about by the idea that you are always supposed to be the best and failure is not an option. Such rigid thinking will leave you always tense, stressed out and even afraid of taking on challenges because you’d rather not fail. Examine your source of fear and tackle it. Then begin taking on projects even if they scare you. When you fail, view it as a lesson and not a failure and take note of the mistakes for improvement next time.

Thing is…

Imposter syndrome comes from a place of insufficient self-belief or confidence. Work on yourself everyday. Upskill if you feel threatened by inadequate skills. Write a list of your achievements and always update your professional profiles with your achievements till you get used to them. Do what you have to do, but make sure your brain fully comprehends your value. Once that is taken care of, self-doubt and feelings of being a fraud will dissipate.

Doreen Mueke
Notification Bell