Imposter Syndrome

While we’ve lately been talking about self love and self care on the blog – especially with regard to our mental health and how mindfulness can help – in today’s article we are going to look at something that plagues many of us with self-doubt. Our London-based therapist, Teyhou Smyth, is once again going to share some of her insights with us, this time on the Imposter Syndrome. Not sure what that is and why it might apply to you? Well, read on!


You go to work, you do your job, you go home.

Over and over. That’s the drill.

Usually it’s fine and not at all unusual, but some days, you have a nagging feeling that you don’t know what the hell you’re doing. You start to wonder when everyone else will find out that you’re clueless.

Feeling like a “fraud” at work is actually more common than you’d think. Imposter Syndrome is the official title of this malady, and it affects approximately 70% of people in the workplace. You’re not alone.

Causes For Imposter Syndrome

There are many reasons people can feel like a fraud at work, some of which may be connected to family background, self esteem, depression and anxiety. Or, maybe you actually do feel clueless about aspects of your job, or how your role connects to the larger picture in your company or agency.

If you’re struggling with feelings of self doubt or disconnection in the workplace, it’s important to explore the underlying reasons so that you can feel confident and connected again.

Maybe it would help to ask yourself a few questions about the way you feel to get to the root of the issue.

  • How am I feeling about my job skills? Are there certain tasks that I’m struggling with?
  • Do I feel connected to the larger picture of the company/business I work for?
  • How am I feeling about myself outside of work? Am I having self doubt in other areas of my life?
  • Do I feel appreciated and valued at work? How about outside of work?

We Need Connection and Meaning

We thrive when we feel like part of a community; this is true in our personal lives as well as our work lives. In addition to feelings of community, a sense of individual purpose and meaning are important to a life of satisfaction. Does your career resonate with your values? Are you connected to your work in a meaningful way?

Exploring your connections with others, your purpose in life and your sense of meaning in day to day work are all useful ways to address feelings of being a fraud. Many people who struggle with these feelings are overachievers and their feelings are not actually based in fact, but a nagging state of self doubt. It may sound counterintuitive for people who are overachievers to have this sort of self doubt, but in reality, confidence and self assurance have no bearing on levels of accomplishment. Most of us struggle with self doubt from time to time, and sometimes the highest of achievers in our society are the people who question their skills and knowledge the most.

Some famous people who have struggled with imposter syndrome include Kate Winslet who was quoted as saying, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot and I think, I can’t do this, I’m a fraud.” Perhaps even more surprisingly, Neil Armstrong is even noted as having struggled with feeling like a fraud.

Finding Meaning And Connection At Work

If it feels like you are disconnected from a sense of purpose and connection at work, it may be time for some changes. Are there ways to connect with co-workers and work together on projects that will improve aspects of the workplace? Is there a way to incorporate your skills from other areas of your life into your workplace so that you feel like you are doing something in tune with your values and interests?

Development Of Skills

When workplace self doubt is a result of legitimate lack of information or confusion about processes at work, it may be helpful to admit this with a trusted supervisor or colleague. You may be surprised to find that you’re not alone and this may spur some needed trainings for you and many others who have been too intimidated to say something.

If your self doubt is more related to your specific role, signing up for trainings that will enhance your knowledge and confidence is a good way to boost yourself. And if it feels like you’re in a dead-end role and are no longer inspired, maybe it is time for change in your career path.

Do You Feel Like an Imposter?

You may already identify with feeling like a fraud at work, but if you aren’t sure, take this quiz to find out. Feeling like a fraud doesn’t mean you are a fraud, and you’ve certainly been in good company with the likes of scientists, actors and an array of other high-achievers in your feelings of self-doubt.

In fact, some feel that imposter syndrome, and that nagging feeling of not being enough is what drives over achievers, who are working hard to prove their worth and worthiness. So you may have a ton of self doubt and it may make you feel like a fake, and a fraud, but others likely see you for the success that you emanate. The trick is learning how to accept your success and not judge yourself so harshly for an imperfect day.

Practice Self Recognition

It may be that struggles with imposter syndrome are going to pop up for you every now and then. Practicing self acceptance and self recognition is a helpful way to get in the habit of challenging those self-negating thoughts.

When you begin feeling like a fraud, reality-check those thoughts and challenge yourself to recall your achievements. Creating cognitive dissonance is an important part of helping ourselves through times of negative self talk; ask yourself ‘what are the facts of a situation, and why do I continue to go back to negative assumptions?’

Self care and self compassion are the enemies of imposter syndrome. Generally, those who feel like imposters judge themselves with unfair standards that they would never hold anyone else to; challenging those discrepancies and being kind to oneself is an important part of moving beyond feeling like an imposter.

When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; you do not change your decision to get there.

Zig Ziglar

[This blog post originally appeared on Teyhou’s website]

Phone: +353 1 2100 600
297 Beechwood Court
Stillorgan, Co. Dublin, A94 N726