What is Imposter Syndrome and How to Overcome it While Working Remotely?

Imposter syndrome at work

Have you ever asked yourself questions like, ‘What am I doing here?’ or, ‘I’m not as good as they think I am?’. When you doubt your abilities and feel like a fraud, whether at work or in your personal life, then you might be dealing with Imposter Syndrome. It´s surprisingly common, and there are tactics you can try to deal with it. 

Studies show that anywhere from 9% to 82% of people reported having thoughts along the lines of the questions above.  It’s a lot more common than some people think! 

Characteristics of Imposter Syndrome 

What’s Imposter Syndrome? The most common imposter syndrome definition is: the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills. This can show up through symptoms like:

  • An inability to assess your own competence and skills
  • Believing your success is due to outside factors, and not anything you’ve personally done
  • Doubting and ‘belittling’ your performance 
  • A fear that you won’t live up to expectations 
  • Sabotaging your own success 
  • Self-doubt 
  • Setting unrealistic goals and feeling disappointed when you don’t reach them 

Main Causes and How to Identify It 

There is no clear ‘main cause’ of imposters syndrome, however, there are a number of factors that are likely to trigger them. These could be: 

  • Your parenting and childhood environment (pressured into doing well at school, being compared to your siblings etc…) 
  • Your personality traits (perfectionist tendencies, low self-efficacy, or confidence, in your ability to manage your behaviour etc…) 
  • Existing mental health symptoms (anxiety, depression, etc…) 
  • Having new responsibilities 

If you’re thinking, ‘do I have imposter syndrome?’ let´s do a quick test. Take time to answer these 4 questions: 

  • Do I get worried over even the smallest mistakes or flaws in my work?
  • Do you think your success is due to luck or outside factors?
  • Are you very sensitive to criticism? Even constructive criticism? 
  • Do you downplay your knowledge, even in areas where you are more skilled/knowledgable than others? 

If you find you relate to the above questions, it is possible you might have imposter syndrome meaning you need to change the way you think about yourself (easier said than done, we know).

5 Types of Imposter Syndrome

There are five types of this syndrome, each with slightly different characteristics. Which one do you most relate to? 

The Perfectionist 

 You focus on how you do things to the point where you demand perfection from yourself in every aspect of life. Even when this isn’t a realistic goal and you can’t meet it, you criticize yourself rather than acknowledge your hard work. You could even avoid trying new things if you don’t think you can do them perfectly the first time. 

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that practise makes perfect and you’ll never get the hang of something the first time you do it!  

The Natural Genius 

You’ve spent your life picking up new skills with little to no effort, and believe this should be the case with everything you do. When you struggle to do something, you feel like a fraud, ashamed, or even embarrassed. 

Just because you found something more difficult than you expected, it in no way means you’re a failure! 

The Rugged Individualist 

You’re stubborn. You believe you should be able to handle everything by yourself, and if you can’t, you consider yourself unworthy. Asking for help makes you feel like you’re admitting you can’t do something yourself and are a failure.

Asking for help, or even just accepting some support when it’s offered, doesn’t mean you’re failing! 

Not sure if you belong to this group? Check out our job burnout quiz for remote workers!

The Expert 

 Before you consider your work a success, you have to learn everything there is to know about  the topic. You believe you should have all the answers, and if you can’t answer a question, you feel like a fraud or a failure. 

Not knowing everything isn’t a bad thing! Learning new things from different people helps to build your own knowledge, just because you didn’t find the answer yourself. Try reframing the times when you don’t know an answer as opportunities to learn and improve – we all need to do that!

The Superhero

 You link competence to your ability to succeed in every role you hold. Whether this is an employee, a friend, or a sibling, if you see yourself failing at successfully navigating the demands of the roles, you feel inadequate. You then push yourself to the limit and put as much energy as is physically possible into these roles. 

You don’t have to do everything for everyone! Saying ‘no’ when you’re feeling like everything is too much is actually a good thing to do! 

How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome (And Overcome It)

Honestly, the best way might be to speak to a therapist. Negative thinking, self-doubt, and possible self-sabotage can have an effect on many areas of your life, it’s best if you speak to someone to deal with these thoughts as soon as you can. If you’re working from home and find it hard to get out to appointments you can access help online and have sessions via Zoom or Teams.

There are ways you can try and deal with it without speaking to a therapist, but this might prove difficult sometimes – and that’s ok! Here are some techniques that you can use while working from home.

You should: 

  • Acknowledge your feelings – talk to a friend about how you’re feeling, it can make them feel less overwhelming. You could also find out that you’re not the only one who feels like an imposter! Getting away from your desk for a coffee or lunch break can be really important when working from home.

  • Build connections – avoid the urge of doing everything yourself! Reach out to your remote colleagues for support and advice, most people are happy to help and flattered to be asked and you may find they need the same support from you. Using  a private chat channel allows you to do this with a trusted colleague rather than making it public. Colleagues can offer you guidance and support, validate your strengths, and encourage your efforts to grow.

  • Challenge your own doubts – are there actually any facts to back up your doubts? Look for facts that counteract your thoughts! If you think you’re doing a bad job, ask yourself if you receive encouragement and recognition for your work regularly. If you do, it’s likely you’re doing everything you can correctly. If your team doesn’t have one, talk to your boss about setting up a Kudos channel to share your appreciation of each other.

  • Avoid comparing yourself to others – this one can be difficult, but try to remember that everyone is different and everyone has different talents, skills, and potential. In work you are going to find people who are more productive, creative, or articulate than you are but they will have weaknesses too.

  • Take some time out. Working from home can get lonely and isolating, so don’t forget there is a world outside your screen as well. Set your status to away for twenty minutes and go for a walk in nature, or meet a friend for coffee. This will allow you to reset and look at things with a new perspective.

At the end of the day, success doesn’t require perfection. Be kind and compassionate to yourself, instead of being overly judgemental and full of self-doubt. Doing this can really help you to maintain a more realistic perspective of yourself and your work, and help your self-growth! 

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