Imposter syndrome could cost you your job

Imposter syndrome could cost you your job

When someone asks you what you do for a living, you reply with a mumbled “errrr, I suppose I...”, probably capped off with a “but I don’t really know how I got the job.” By 9.10am you’re at your desk, staring into your inbox, wondering if today is the day your boss is going to realise you’re not good enough for this. And when it does go right, you ping into reflex mode, declaring that it was totally a team effort, even though you’ve stayed late three times this week to get it sorted. Sound familiar? Then you may be suffering from imposter syndrome. And you’re not alone. 

According to one study, up to 70 per cent of individuals feel inadequate for their position at some point, with the problem most acute among women and the younger population, although men also suffer with the complex too. Actress Jodie Foster has admitted that she didn't always believe she deserved the praise she received: “I thought everybody would find out and they’d take the Oscar back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.’” Incidentally, Meryl, who has won more Oscars than any woman in history, has said she's caught herself thinking: "I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?” So, how to beat it? Here are just a few techniques...


1. Remember that other people probably think more of you than you do

Next time you're plagued by self-doubt, reassure yourself with the findings of a 2016 study by Psychological Consultancy Limited, a group of business psychologists specialising in psychometric assessment, consultancy & training. They found that women consistently undervalue themselves at work: "Based on more than 30,000 performance ratings by individuals, peers, managers and subordinates, the research shows that women underrate their work performance on as many as 19 of the 24 competencies examined." Are you doing this too? The answer is probably yes.

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 2. Don’t ask, don’t get

Repeat this mantra to yourself at least once a day. More than once even. Because sitting at home and pining for a pay rise isn't going to get you one, but taking affirmative action might. Yes, it can be an awkward conversation to have, but you more than likely deserve a few extra pennies in the bank. Our advice? Read point 1 again, repeat the mantra, and make a list of all of the things you've achieved this quarter, no matter how little or large, so that you can walk into your boss' office with a clear plan.

Person writing near pie charts Credit: Pexels/ Lukas

 3. Employ a wingwoman

Let's face it, we've all moaned to our best friend about how we're not thin/funny/pretty/clever enough and had them tell us to shut up and stop putting ourselves down - and as soon as you hear it, you know she's right. So find someone in the office, who knows your skills, who you can look to for the occasional coffee and a pep-talk once in a while. And remember, kindness breeds kindness, so be someone else's wingwoman too.

Two women talking Credit: Pexels/ Tirachard Kumtanom

  4. Focus on a previous success

Every time you find yourself throwing shade at your ability to do something, think about something you've previously succeeded at, preferably when you didn't think you could. This could be getting your job in the first place, climbing a mountain, buying your first home, marrying the love of your life - the list is endless. If you've got a photo of the event, print it off and stick it somewhere where you will regularly see it as a visual reminder that, actually, you're epic - and you can achieve anything.

office stationary on pink background Credit: Pexels/

5. Take a look at your language

There's a good chance that you're selling yourself short, just through the language that you use on a day-to-day basis. Do you ask to borrow a colleague for "just" a minute? Do you automatically say "sorry to bother you", rather than "can I ask you a question please"?  Do you say "What if we maybe", rather than "I think we should"? All of these little words put you in a position of subordination, rather than establishing your place on the playing field. So give your language a shake-up.

People in a meeting Credit: Pexels

The forecast for women in the workplace already makes for some pretty depressing reading right now. We all know that many of us are being paid less than men for doing the same jobs, that the office is probably killing our confidence and the fact that robots are set to disproportionately steal our jobs within the next decade. And, while all of these things seem like outside influences, we're actually doing just as much damage to our own chances of succeeding by failing to recognise when we're giving in to imposter syndrome. 

Of course, imposter syndrome doesn't only happen in the workplace. It happens every time we date someone that we think is too good for us, get naked with someone we think is more attractive than us and go on a night out in heels that (probably are) too high for us. So once in a while, just tell your inner self to shut up and go along with it. Who knows what could happen...