How Feeling Like a Fake Can Stop You Achieving at Work

overcome Imposter Syndrome
Beat Imposter Syndrome and Embrace the Fact You’re Awesome

What is imposter syndrome you may ask? Ever have that feeling that, despite your results, you’re not doing a good job?  That you’re a fake and everybody is about to find out?

You could be in the middle of a well-prepared presentation, the crowd in the palm of your hand, but your inner voice is screaming: ‘I don’t know what I’m doing!!’

Or your boss tells you you’ve done a great job on a project and the words ‘Oh I could have done better’ or ‘I couldn’t have done it without so and so, they did most of the work’ fall out of your mouth?

Scary. This feeling is so common among working women that it even has a name – ‘Imposter Syndrome.’ It means feeling like a fraud at work – as if the results you have achieved are nothing to do with you and you don’t deserve your success.

Imposter Syndrome can have a highly destructive effect on your career progression and damage your chances of a pay rise or promotion.

It’s a fact that women have a tendency to put themselves down and belittle their own achievements. This happens in the face of huge progress for women globally.

We are now succeeding at every level of life – from outstripping boys in every subject at school to climbing to high-flying positions in almost all professions.

So, what’s the problem? Along with the socialisation of girls to believe they are second best, Imposter Syndrome is prevalent among women because of a general lack of confidence.

Countless studies have shown that women are not as good as men at asking for pay rises. Also, that women feel they have to get all the proper qualifications before they succeed at work, as opposed to men, who are more confident about winging it.

This lack of confidence and feeling like a fraud at work is a huge barrier to women earning more and gaining financial independence.

According to Fawcett along with poor childcare provision, discrimination and a lack of flexible hours helps to keep the gender pay gap of 13.9% for full time workers firmly where it is.

It’s clear that women need to learn how to celebrate themselves and flaunt it. Read on for some tips on how to beat Imposter Syndrome and succeed at work:

How to Beat Imposter Syndrome and Succeed At Work

1. Be Yourself

We’ve come a long way but stereotypes about female bosses persist.

Women bosses are put into two boxes: the ruthless, b*tch in stilettos or the spineless woman who lets everyone run amok. There’s also the school of thought that women need to behave more like men to get ahead.

No, no and no. The key to achieving at work is to be at ease with who you are. Stop trying to fit in with people’s perceptions and be confident about who you are and your achievements. They say that people who are at ease with themselves are a magnet for life’s good things. Try it.

The key to achieving at work is to be at ease with who you are.Click To Tweet

2. Toot Your Own Horn

That Master’s degree? ‘Oh yes, I did it ages ago, I’ve forgotten everything I learnt!’ That person you mentored to success? ‘Well, they did it themselves, I didn’t do much!’

Sound like you? One of the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome is that you feel like people won’t believe you if you tell them about your accomplishments.

Or that you’ll look like a big head. It comes back to worrying about what people think about you. Men don’t do this. They crow from the rooftops and are rewarded for doing so.

Learn to talk about the things you have done well in life. A good first step to teaching yourself to toot your own horn is to stop yourself using negative words like ‘no’, ‘can’t’ and ‘wasn’t’. These send the wrong message to bosses who want to hear solutions and positivity.

Successful people are proud of their achievements. Don’t go around with a megaphone – that’s arrogant – but honestly taking credit for good work should be encouraged. It’ll also make you feel far more confident when it comes to asking for a pay rise.

You’re great, deal with it.

Always remember successful people are proud of their achievements. Click To Tweet

3. Stop Saying Sorry

Do you say sorry to everyone all the time? Someone steps on your foot, ‘Sorry!’

You need to give someone orders at work ‘Sorry but could you just….?’ Or you write an email asking for a report that’s overdue ‘Sorry to bother you, but…’

Almost like you are sorry for your very existence. If this is you, try to limit the ‘S’ word. Only use it for things you genuinely need to be sorry about – like crashing into your boss’s brand new Porsche.

4. Don’t Compare

It’s very easy to agonise about how people around you having achieved something and you haven’t. But remember those ‘other people’ will have had their ups and downs at work too.

Channel the energy you use thinking about other people’s lives to improve your own life.

  • What are you doing right?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • How can you go about it?

Just because someone else is at a higher stage in their career doesn’t mean that you, too, won’t make it up there. Think positive, focus on your own work and the riches will follow.

5. Give Yourself A Pass

So you stuffed up at work. Everybody does it at some point. But many women internalise this as a massive failure and it starts to eat away. You may be thinking ‘Oh now everyone will hate me’ or ‘I’m never going to be given the chance again.’

Unless you have somehow lost 100 billion pounds of your company’s money, accept your mistake, fix it and move on with dignity. Everybody makes mistakes – don’t let the odd failure dent your confidence. Learn from it instead.

6. Beat Imposter Syndrome By Sharing

It’s dead cert that if you share your Imposter Syndrome with other women, they will fall over themselves to tell you their own ‘I’m a fraud’ stories.

Imposter Syndrome is usually an internalised problem. Talking about a lack of confidence can instantly help you gain confidence, as you realise other people suffer with it as much as you.

Learn to take pride in yourself and celebrate everything you have done – thinking positive is the key to achieving your career goals.

Over to You

Do you suffer with Imposter Syndrome? Is a lack of assertiveness holding you back? Share with us here, we’d love to hear from you.

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  1. Frank Nana Addae says:

    I am a male but i find this article very important to me just because i am a victim of imposter syndrome. I have been battling with self confidence for quite sometime now and this article has taught me a lot. Tank you

  2. This is SUCH good advice! Why do we do this to ourselves? I know hardly any women who don’t apologise for themselves at some point when they’re with work colleagues and it’s so unnecessary! Great tips.

  3. I have such a bad habit of never thinking I’ve done good enough and always apologising for things so an insightful read x

  4. I absolutely love this post. Your best yet! It is so true, and I am guilty of this not only in terms of work, but even things like hockey which I play, when someone gives me a compliment I brush it off. I think I feel a bit awkward about it all. But being confident in your ability is definitely something to aim for 🙂

  5. Thank you for your commet Rhian. I am glad you found the post useful. You are not alone. In fact most women have an inclination to put themselves down and belittle their own accomplishments. The first step toward change is awareness.

  6. I think I suffered from this at work, and slowly it helped chip away at my confidence. I wish I’d have read a strategy like this at the time

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