How to overcome imposter syndrome – 11 simple techniques to boost your confidence

How to overcome imposter syndrome – 11 simple techniques to boost your confidence

It's difficult to overcome imposter syndrome. 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 9.10 am 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.

woman imposter syndrome Imposter syndrome sufferers tend to believe that their success is due to luck alone (Credit: Pexels)

What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where individuals doubt their skills, talent and qualifications. Those afflicted tend to believe that their success is due to luck alone.

This can lead to a fear of being exposed as a "fraud".

READ MORE: Is your job killing your confidence?

The syndrome was first coined by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. Clance and Imes initially concluded that women were uniquely affected by imposter syndrome.

However, it has now known to affect both men and women.

Person writing near pie charts Don't let imposter syndrome hold you back (Credit: Pexels/ Lukas)

How can you overcome imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can hold you back in your career, and also affect your mental wellbeing.

READ MORE: Why the robot revolution will affect women way more than men

Around 70% of people experience some version of these feelings at some point in their lives, and they come from all walks of life.

There are, however, a number of ways in which you can treat these feelings if they should so arise...

1. Know the signs

The most common signs of imposter syndrome are finding it hard to accept praise, feeling like you "lucked out" when you succeed, and holding yourself to often impossible standards.

Imposter syndrome can also manifest as a severe fear of failure.

People in a meeting Don't be afraid to fail (Credit: Pexels)

2. Remember that other people do not share the same perception of you

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.

3. 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? 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.

4. Find a friend to vent to

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 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, and who you can look to for the occasional coffee and a pep-talk once in a while.

But remember, kindness breeds kindness, so be someone else's wing-woman too.

5. 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.

Two women talking Around 70% of people experience some form of imposter syndrome (Credit: Pexels/ Tirachard Kumtanom)

6. Let go of your inner perfectionist

It's simple: when you feel like a "fraud", you're usually holding yourself up to some unrealistic and impossible expectations. Doing the best you can is enough.

7. Say "yes" to any new opportunities

If you keep turning down new opportunities for growth because you're afraid of "failing", it becomes more difficult to put an end to feelings of low self-worth.

Don't let your imposter syndrome close doors that are wide open.

8 . Sit with your feelings

Although feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt can be unpleasant, it's important to not push them down. Burying your emotions means that you are unable to process them, and this makes them more likely to rear their ugly head later.

office stationary on pink background Remember, if you don't ask, you don't get (Credit: Pexels/

9. Practice positive self-talk

Are you familiar with that nasty voice inside your head, which berates you with messages like "you're not smart enough"?

Unfortunately, many of us are, and it can take a toll on our stress and anxiety levels, as well as influence our self-esteem.

To combat this, practice positive self-talk. This simply means that when you have negative thoughts, try to rephrase them into a positive.

So instead of telling yourself that you "can't do this", hit back with "I've got this!"

10. Speak about how you can overcome feelings of imposter syndrome with your manager

Sure, it's important to vent to your friends and colleagues, but your manager may prove to be a surprising source of support if you're looking to overcome feelings of imposter syndrome.

This is because your manager is uniquely equipped when it comes to tracking your success in the context of your current role. So they may give you handy pointers for tracking your progress, and they'll undoubtedly remind you of your successes too.


11. Take a look at the language you use

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? And 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.