4 Signs You Have Impostor Syndrome, and How to Overcome it

By Mia Casey

Ever feel like your success is somehow a fluke? That everyone around you is smarter and more successful? Are you just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for your boss or tutor to pull you aside and ask you to leave? Well hi, that’s called ‘Impostor Syndrome’.

Impostor Syndrome can effect pretty much anyone, but is especially prominent in high achievers, perfectionists, and workaholics. This feeling that you don’t belong in the position you’re in is very common, so you’re certainly not alone.

Unsure whether you have Impostor Syndrome? Read on!

1. You insist on doing it all by yourself

If you’re tackling a difficult task and refuse help because you either: a) feel the need to prove yourself, like, ALL the time; or b) you’re worried if someone helps you they’ll realise you don’t belong – then heyyy you might have impostor syndrome.

When you insist on going all ‘lone ranger’ and doing things on your own, it can kind of suck for you and the people around you. For you, it means you’re denying yourself a support network and feelings of isolation can start creeping in. For others, it can make you seem unapproachable, and make it difficult to form a relationship with you.

What can you do to overcome it?

  • Put your hand up for group work or team situations that requires you to work with others to try and get out of your comfort zone and start relying on people.
  • Next time you think of a question, actually ask it – even if it’s just a small thing, getting into the habit of reaching out is great!
  • Make a list of 3 things you’ve achieved in the last 3 months, and remind yourself that maybe – just maybe – you deserve to be where you are.

2. You feel like nothing you do is ever good enough

Do you send through work and just sit by your inbox, convinced the recipient will read it and immediately see it for the terrible mess it is (according to you, anyways)? Ah buddy, I feel you.

When you feel that the work you’re producing just isn’t up to par, or that everyone around you is doing SO much better than you are, it can be a real blow to the ol’ self-esteem. You may find that you take longer to complete tasks because you’re never happy with the outcome, you refuse help in case other people notice your shortcomings, and you generally just don’t feel satisfied.

What can you do to overcome it?

  • Take note when you get positive feedback by writing down your achievements so you can reflect back on them next time the self-doubt hits.
  • Try to spend a bit more time with your colleagues or peers to get to know them better. That way, they’ll seem less like ridiculously brilliant rivals but more like real people.
  • Create a schedule next time a task comes up that gives you time to complete the task, time to review it, and no time to dwell over it! Holding to a more structured timeline can help you stay on task and stop that pesky voice in your head telling you that you just need to redo it one more time.

3. You feel like you’ve never done enough

Have you ever sat back after completing a project, the final email sent off and everything tidied away, and just start ruminating over all the things you should have done? And it isn’t just for a one off task, but happens every time you complete something? Yep, that could be impostor syndrome.

This feeling that you’ve never done enough ties in to your feeling that you don’t belong or somehow don’t deserve to be in the position you’re in. High achievers often fall prey to this particular characteristic, as the praise they may have got for a good report card

What can you do to overcome it?

  • Similar to the last point, keep a track of when you get positive feedback – particularly concerning ‘all the hard work’ you’ve done. Whether it’s in a notebook, a folder in your inbox for positive e-messages, or a file on your computer, focusing on the positive and stockpiling it for difficult times can be a huge help.
  • Talk to someone close to you who doesn’t work or study with you, and get them to help you reflect on your strengths and achievements. Then, when you do get positive praise, tell that person so they can pump you up as well! Double positive praise can do wonders for the ego.
  • Start recording your contributions to big projects or assignments, just in dot points, and when it’s done look back over it all. It’s easy to forget all the little things you do to contribute, so being conscious of it throughout can definitely help.

4.  You constantly think you don’t belong where you are

Whether it’s in a meeting or a lecture, if you feel like you don’t deserve to be there, that you must have somehow tricked everyone, or that everyone around you is way better than you, you’ve likely got Impostor Syndrome.

When you’re constantly questioning the validity of your position, it can be hard to put down roots or form solid relationships, and you may find yourself constantly looking for ways that people are doubting you or are disappointed in your work.

What can you do to overcome it?

  • Remind yourself that these people who you’re surrounded with have either hired you, chosen to work with you, or are trusting you with work, so maybe you can trust them to. If they didn’t think you were competent or that you belonged then they wouldn’t bother – and if they are as brilliant as you think they are, then they must be right, right?
  • If you’re friends with someone you’ve worked with in the past, reach out for a catch-up. Not only is it a great way to keep your support system going strong by surrounding yourself with friends, but they can also give you insight into what it was like working with you – they may even convince you it was great!
  • Recognise praise for what it is: validation that you are where you’re meant to be. Rather than telling yourself that they’re out to get you, try to replace that negative self-talk with the great feedback you’ve received in the past. Struggling with it? Maybe swing by UTS’s Counselling Service to chat through it!

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash


Author: Mia Casey

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