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Imposter Syndrome: When You Feel Like a Fake


Competent, capable people who have worked hard to get where they are sometimes suffer from “imposter syndrome.” This normal phenomena can have disastrous results if you don’t recognize it for what it is, and learn how to deal with it. Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back.

(Photo Credit: Michael of Scott/Flickr)

Nancy Ancowitz wrote an in-depth article for Psychology Today about the intricacies of imposter syndrome. Here is a small break-down to help you deal with insecurity and self-doubt as you work.

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Imposter Syndrome at Work

Often, graduating students, new hires, and people who have recently been promoted experience feeling as if they are not really up to the job. They may think they just got lucky, or have been promoted beyond their capabilities, or simply feel that everybody else is more capable.

Two important things to remember are that imposter syndrome is normal, and that,

to some extent, it is healthy.

Too Much Confidence

People who never doubt themselves may be more likely to make mistakes, and less likely to admit when they do make them. On the other hand, people with imposter syndrome may make the mistake of overcompensating to look confident, and come across as puffing themselves up too much. Both of these can be detrimental in the workplace.


Communication is one way to overcome imposter syndrome. One positive about having imposter syndrome is that you may be more willing to ask questions, admit mistakes, and let others know that you are learning. The problem occurs when you freeze up and don’t contribute, because you feel incompetent. Asking questions and admitting to colleagues when you don’t know something creates a workplace culture of openness. It enables employees to learn together.

Experts at Psychology Today advise people in prominence or leadership positions in a company to openly discuss their sense of impostership. Doing so seems to make others relax and be willing to discuss their own sense of being overwhelmed at high expectations.

The bottom line is to remember that this sense of impostership is normal. Competent, capable people feel it, especially when they have a new job responsibility or new level of leadership.

Recognize this psychological phenomena for what it is, and be willing to take risks and communicate.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you ever feel like an imposter at your job? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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