Imposter Syndrome at Work: Meaning, and Ways to Overcoming
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Imposter Syndrome at Work: Meaning, and Ways to Overcoming

post by Hong Yuan

by Hong Yuan

Jul 2, 2024
at 3:30 PM

Have you ever achieved something great at work, only to convince yourself it was luck or a mistake? Maybe you downplay your skills or constantly worry you'll be exposed as a fraud. If this sounds familiar, you might be experiencing imposter syndrome.


Imposter Syndrome Meaning

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern characterized by persistent self-doubt and a feeling of inadequacy despite evidence of success. People with imposter syndrome believe they are not as competent as others perceive them to be and live in fear of being exposed as a "fake."

Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace


Imposter Syndrome in the Workplace

Imposter syndrome is surprisingly common, affecting high achievers across all professions. In the workplace, it can manifest in several ways, hindering career growth and job satisfaction. Here are some signs to watch out for:

Signs of imposter syndrome:

  • Discounting your accomplishments and attributing success to luck or external factors.
  • Fear of failure and a constant need to prove yourself.
  • Perfectionism and relentless self-criticism.
  • Difficulty accepting praise or attributing positive feedback to flattery.
  • Hesitation to take on new challenges or avoid visibility.

These feelings can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and even burnout.


5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

While the core of imposter syndrome revolves around self-doubt and feeling like a fraud, it manifests differently depending on your underlying beliefs. Here's a closer look at the five types and their specific characteristics:

  1. The Perfectionist:
  • Motto: "Anything less than perfect is a failure."
  • Behavior: Sets unrealistically high standards for themselves and others. They meticulously plan and overprepare for tasks, fearing any errors will expose their inadequacy. Accomplishments are often downplayed as "just meeting expectations."
  • Challenge: Acknowledge the value of progress over perfection. Celebrate small wins and recognize that mistakes are part of the learning process.


  1. The Natural Genius:
  • Motto: "If I have to work hard, I must not be good enough."
  • Behavior: Believes success should come effortlessly, like a natural talent. They fear that any struggle exposes their lack of true ability. This can lead to procrastination or avoiding challenges altogether.
  • Challenge: Redefine intelligence as the ability to learn and grow. Acknowledge the effort and dedication behind successful people's achievements.


  1. The Soloist:
  • Motto: "Asking for help shows weakness."
  • Behavior: Believes seeking help or collaboration exposes their shortcomings. They may take on overwhelming workloads to prove their independence, leading to burnout.
  • Challenge: Recognize that collaboration and seeking advice are signs of strength and lead to better outcomes. Build a network of trusted colleagues and mentors you can rely on.


  1. The Overachiever:
  • Motto: "No matter what I do, it's never enough."
  • Behavior: Never feels satisfied with accomplishments. They constantly strive for more, setting increasingly difficult goals to prove their worth. This can lead to work-life imbalance and anxiety.
  • Challenge: Focus on the intrinsic value of your work and celebrate achievements. Learn to recognize when "enough" is truly enough.


  1. The Expert:
  • Motto: "I don't know enough, so I can't be legitimate."
  • Behavior: Feels like they need to be the ultimate authority on a subject before feeling confident. They may constantly research and learn, delaying action due to fear of missing crucial information.
  • Challenge: Recognize that continuous learning is a lifelong process. Focus on mastery of what's necessary for the current task and trust your ability to learn as needed.


Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

While imposter syndrome can be persistent, there are ways to challenge its negative voice:


1. Challenge Negative Self-Talk:

  • Recognize the voice: When self-doubt creeps in, identify it as imposter syndrome and not an objective truth.
  • Reframe your thoughts: Instead of "I don't deserve this promotion," try "My hard work and skills contributed to this achievement."

2. Focus on Facts, Not Feelings:

  • Track your accomplishments: Keep a record of your successes, projects completed, and positive feedback.
  • Compare evidence, not feelings: When self-doubt hits, revisit your list of accomplishments to remind yourself of your capabilities.

3. Embrace Growth Mindset:

  • Learning is key: View challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, not failures.
  • Celebrate small wins: Acknowledge and celebrate your progress, no matter how small.

4. Seek Support and Celebrate Others' Successes:

  • Talk about it: Share your feelings with a trusted colleague, mentor, or friend.
  • Support others: Uplift and celebrate the achievements of your peers to create a supportive environment.
  • Find a mentor: Seek guidance from someone you admire who can offer encouragement and advice.

5. Practice Self-Compassion:

  • Be kind to yourself: Everyone makes mistakes, treat yourself with the same understanding you'd offer a friend.
  • Focus on progress, not perfection: Strive for excellence, but don't let perfectionism paralyze you.

What is Gaslighting

Differences between Imposter Syndrome and Gaslighting

We've all experienced self-doubt at some point. But what if that self-doubt becomes a persistent feeling of inadequacy, leading to anxiety and hindering your success? That might be imposter syndrome. However, it's important not to confuse it with gaslighting, a manipulative tactic used to control someone. Let's delve into the key differences between these two:


  • Imposter Syndrome: Internal. It's a self-imposed feeling of inadequacy.
  • Gaslighting: External. It's a form of emotional abuse where someone manipulates another person into questioning their own sanity or reality.


  • Imposter Syndrome: Focuses on self-doubt and questioning your own competence.
  • Gaslighting: Focuses on manipulating someone else's perception of reality to gain control.


  • Imposter Syndrome: This leads to anxiety, stress, and self-sabotage, but doesn't necessarily damage relationships.
  • Gaslighting: Can erode self-confidence, cause confusion and isolation, and damage relationships.


  • Imposter Syndrome: "I got promoted, but I must have just gotten lucky. They'll realize I'm a fraud soon."
  • Gaslighting: "You're overreacting. I never said that! You must be remembering things wrong."


Remember, imposter syndrome is a common experience. By recognizing the signs, understanding the different types, and implementing these strategies, you can overcome self-doubt and embrace your true capabilities.





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