Imposter Syndrome and How to Conquer It

by Posted @ Jul 18 2019

The first day of any new job can be daunting. No matter how immaculately you’re dressed or how early you arrive at the office, there’s a high chance that you’re going to feel overwhelmed by an aspect of your new job at some point. And this sense of newness can persist for weeks at a time if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their own achievements, and has persistent anxiety over being exposed as a “fraud”. This can manifest as thoughts like, “They hired the wrong person, I’m gonna screw this up”, or “I wonder how long it’ll take before people notice I’m actually a chimpanzee in a J. Crew button-up”. It’s an unhealthy and neurotic tendency that can undercut the past experience you’ve gained and the great things you will accomplish at your new position.

Luckily, you can overcome Imposter Syndrome! It’s not easy, but you can absolutely train yourself to avoid the mental pitfalls that come with a new adventure. With some focused efforts and positive thinking, you can stop worrying and start thriving in your new position. Here’s a handy list of techniques you can perform in order to help you relax and stay in control of your new workload.

Project Confidence

There’s an incredibly thin line between acting confident and being confident. You know that old saying, “Fake it ‘til you make it”? It’s a great mantra to use when you want to show your new coworkers that you’re assured and relaxed even though you feel like the rug could be ripped out from under you at any moment. Once you project confidence and get the positive feedback associated with it, you’ll start feeling confident in yourself and the work you can produce. 

Here are a few quick and easy secrets to acting confident.

  • Limit the number of times you apologize. Instead of “Sorry for keeping you waiting”, say instead “Thank you for being patient”. By doing this, you turn an apology into a compliment, which always goes over better.
  • Don’t sell yourself short. Keep self-deprecating jokes to a minimum and ask questions from a place of earnestness, not fear. “Hey, I’ve got a quick question” is always a better alternative than “Sorry, I’ve got a stupid question”.
  • Give straight answers. Unless you’re running for office, nobody wants to hear you artfully dodge questions or rationalize mistakes. If you don’t know something, say so. If you mess something up, own it and say that you’ll do better in the future. 

Find an Outlet

For many people with Imposter Syndrome, starting a new job can consume their entire lives both at work and at home. Thanks to the invention of smartphones, it’s easy to feel like you’re never really “free” of your work if you’re getting emails at all hours of the day. Try to remember that your boss is (probably) not trying to kill you, so you shouldn’t try to put too much on your shoulders either. Instead of constantly being glued to your phone, try to find an outlet you can turn to let go of that stress.

Hobbies are a great way to decompress after the day, especially if you can find something to do that doesn’t require a screen. Consider taking the dog for a walk, cooking yourself a hearty meal, or maybe picking up that dusty book you got for Christmas and never bothered reading. If your mind is fried after a long day of answering emails and overbearing managers, these activities are good ways to engage your body and brain. Here are some quick tips for maximizing your downtime:

  • Video games, TV, and YouTube are a great way to unwind, but not necessarily helpful if you’ve already been sitting all day. Try interspersing some minor exercises (planks, crunches, etc.) between load times/commercials so your body stays engaged!
  • Learn to disconnect. Put your phone in another room and only check it every 30 minutes so you’re not obsessing over your inbox when you should be relaxing.
  • Hobbies can be anything you want! It doesn’t have to be something traditional like listening to classical music or playing basketball. Playing board games, spending time with your pets, or doodling in a notebook are all solid hobbies that are great for decompressing.
  • Don’t isolate yourself! Even the biggest introvert needs someone to talk to every once in a while. Humans are social creatures and we don’t do well in constant isolation, so if you’re feeling burnt out, consider meeting up with some friends or calling your family. They’d love to hear from you!

A healthy outlet is crucial for overcoming Imposter Syndrome. If you’re anxious about work and you’re feeling worn down, inject some newness into your life with a new hobby or a new friend, and your anxiety will begin to melt away.

Separate Facts from Feelings

The crux of Imposter Syndrome is the misguided belief that you’re secretly an inept moron who is only hours away from being fired and having your life ruined beyond all reckoning. This line of thinking is incredibly destructive and it’s totally possible to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if you don’t snap out of it. To help you do that, focus on the facts of your situation to drown out your feelings of inadequacy. 

The most important fact about your situation is this: you got hired. You beat out a dozen other incredibly smart and talented people to land this job. Your boss chose you because you had proven yourself to be the best choice. Your coworkers want to see you succeed and become part of the team. Keep these things in mind, and your stress should melt away with time.

Getting perspective is another valuable thing to have in your arsenal when you’re fighting off Imposter Syndrome. It’s easy to convince yourself that things are a certain way if you don’t have any input from others. So, go talk to people! Find a recent hire and compare notes on your onboarding experiences. There’s a solid chance that you’ll share a few commonalities that can help reassure you that you are, in fact, not a chimpanzee in a J. Crew button-up.

Imposter Syndrome is a very real and debilitating mental hurdle that many people struggle with, but there’s a huge variety of ways to overcome it. Whether you just got hired at a trendy startup, a massive corporation, or an innovative marketing agency, you’ll probably feel intimidated at some point during your first few days (or weeks) in a new role. Just remember that when things seem overwhelming and you’re worried you’re going to humiliate yourself in front of your new coworkers, always choose hope over fear. Choosing hope will allow you to remain calm, become confident, and cement yourself as an asset to your company.

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