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How to overcome ‘imposter syndrome’ at your job

Tribune Content Agency logo Tribune Content Agency 1/5/2022 Kathleen Furore, Tribune Content Agency
It can be challenging, but it is possible. © Dreamstime/TNS It can be challenging, but it is possible.

DEAR READERS: Recently, I learned that two young adults – both doing extremely well in their chosen careers — have been experiencing “imposter syndrome.” It is hard for me to understand, given their success. How can someone who feels like they’re not as competent as others think they are overcome that feeling so they can relish their accomplishments?

a woman smiling for the camera: Kathleen Furore. © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Kathleen Furore.

It can be challenging — but it is possible to overcome imposter syndrome and ultimately flourish with self-confidence, industry experts say.

“Many people have a freeze response to it, almost like they’re being bullied and don’t know what to say or do,” says certified career coach Gracie Miller, founder of Live Life Purpose Coaching & Consulting, who has nine years of experience working with people at all professional levels who suffer from this syndrome.

“Some assume this feeling is the truth, so why question it? The trick is to first notice you are limiting yourself, or your perception of yourself. You’ll know because of the thoughts or feelings that make you feel insignificant or anxious. Once you’ve noticed it, you have some options.”

What are some of those options? Here, career experts weigh in with suggestions.


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Visualize the offending thought and erase it. “Replace it with a more positive thought, allow that thought to repeat a few times until it settles in your body, then continue with your task,” Miller suggests.

Write down your skills. This, says Miller, will help you remember why you aren’t an imposter. “From typing 70 words a minute to writing code to running a 9-minute mile to baking the best blueberry pie anyone’s ever tasted — it can be work-related, not work-related. There should be at least 50 things on this list,” says Miller. “If you feel like you’re bragging, you’re doing it right.”

Keep a file of specific, work-related accomplishments. It is what helped Leanna Serras, chief customer officer of online perfume retailer FragranceX, combat the syndrome early in her career.

“When I was appointed as the chief customer officer at my company, it was a significant jump from my previous role and there were times where I felt like an imposter,” Serras recalls. “I decided to record my accomplishments to improve my self-image. For example, when the CEO sent me an email acknowledging my excellent work on a project, I saved the email in a special folder. Over time I accumulated a folder full of positive feedback about my work. Every time I felt like an impostor, I would just open up the folder and remind myself about my accomplishments.”

Remember the past. According to career consultant Christopher Lee, founder of Purpose Redeemed, recalling past accomplishments can help banish feelings of inadequacy. “This helps us center ourselves on the truth, rather than a mindset of deficiency, and combats the self-fulfilling prophecies of negativity,” Lee says. “We remember that there’s a reason we’re in our roles; there’s a reason we’re at the table.”

Keep things in perspective. Focusing beyond yourself is a good way to start, Lee notes. “I once confided in a mentor that I felt inadequate following a promotion. I’ll never forget his response: ‘I recommend that you keep a perspective on pressure. Are you doing anything that thousands of people haven’t done before? Probably not. Are you going to succeed or fail significantly more than others before you? Probably not.’” Lee says. “Ultimately, things are never as big a deal as we make them out to be.”

(Kathleen Furore is a Chicago-based writer and editor who has covered personal finance and other business-related topics for a variety of trade and consumer publications. You can email her your career questions at kfurore@yahoo.com.)

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