How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Our resident psychiatrist Samantha Boardman's antidote for feeling like a fraud at work.

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Q: I recently received a promotion at work, but I’m terrified that one day, someone is going to realize I just got lucky and shouldn’t have landed such a high-powered position. How do I get over imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome can manifest in a number of confidence-sapping ways. It might be a gnawing voice in the back of your mind questioning your accomplishments; a fear of being “exposed” as a fraud; a sense of guilt that you don’t deserve the success you have achieved; or the conviction that people compliment you just to be polite or because they feel sorry for you. Any reason can undermine your well-being and chip away at your self-esteem. Here are six ways to stop imposter syndrome in its tracks:

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1. Trust the process: Instead of listening to the negative voice in your head, listen to feedback. Odds are, your boss isn’t “being nice” when she writes an excellent evaluation or gives you a promotion. Other people are far more objective than you are capable of being with yourself.

2. Channel your inner Sherlock Holmes: When self-doubt creeps in, do some detective work. Gather specific evidence that highlights how qualified you are for your job. Remind yourself of all you have accomplished. Think of someone’s life you have touched or career you have positively impacted. Concrete examples will help make your success feel real.

3. Remember that nobody is out to get you: Imposter syndrome tends to kick in when we’re overly focused on ourselves and concerned about what others think. Focus on providing value, not on what others are saying.

4. Keep a Gratitude Wall: In my office, I have a wall of all the kind notes people have written to me. It is a kaleidoscope of positive thoughts and meaningful connections. Looking at it is an immediate confidence booster.

5. Realize that authenticity is overrated: You are a work in progress, changing and growing all the time. This is a good thing. The “real you” is always under construction.

6. See uncertainty as a strength: Those with impostor syndrome are more likely to say “I don’t know” when they don’t know. This is an advantage. Overconfident people assume they have all the answers. Remember, imposter syndrome is the fraud, not you.

Dr. Samantha Boardman is a clinical instructor in psychiatry and an assistant attending psychiatrist at Weil Cornell Medical College in New York and the the founder of positivepercription.com.
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A version of this story appeared in the November 2018 issue of Marie Claire.


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