When it comes to confidence, I am the quintessential example of someone who feels wholly unqualified to do his job.
Some people close to me have said that it’s a good way to keep myself humble. But trust me, there are times when the feeling of being an impostor has completely derailed me at work.
Based on my very real experience, here are a few signs that your impostor syndrome has crossed the line from being something you should be aware of—and something that’s keeping you from being a functioning member of society.
1. You’re Not Getting Any Work Done
It’s easy to wallow in self-pity and assume that you’re just a little too dumb to be doing the job you’re doing. But, when your work is simply not getting done, it’s unfair to blame this on the fact that you don’t feel qualified to do the job.
Of course, I can relate to the feeling that at any moment, you’re going to get “found out” and your boss is going to ask you to never show your face again. But if that’s causing you to miss important deadlines and let your teammates down, that’s a completely different story.
How to Deal
Someone much smarter than me once told me that a bad first attempt is way better than no attempt at all. So when your impostor syndrome has you afraid to take a pass at an important project, just remember—lots of feedback on something you worked on is a much better place for you and anyone else involved to start with. And chances are, that first attempt will be way better than you think it’ll be.
2. You Assume Every Conversation With Your Boss Will Involve Firing You
Hey, I get it. It’s really tough when you start hearing whispers about your job—especially when those rumblings are based on rumors you’ve made up yourself. But unless you fear your boss because she’s told you that you’re one mistake away from the unemployment line, there’s nothing productive that can come from waiting around for your manager to walk over to your desk and fire you.
Not only is it based on absolutely no truth, it can put you in the type of mindset that makes it impossible to do your job well or even improve where you need to improve.
How to Deal
If you’re really this nervous about your job status, find some time to talk to your boss about what’s going on. Assuming you have a good (enough) relationship with your manger, it’s as easy as saying, “I’m wondering if you have any feedback about my recent performance.” Even if you don’t like what you hear, at least you’ll have a clearer idea of what you need to improve.
But if you can’t get a meeting the second you need one, be honest with yourself. What can you learn to get better at your job? If you’re proactive about improving, trust me—you’ll worry much less about getting the boot, and much more about understanding how you can grow your skills.
3. You Start Frantically Looking for New Jobs
When you’re feeling like you can’t do your job, it’s only natural to say, “Hey, I should probably find something new before they tell me that I’m an embarrassment and ask me to leave.”
But again, this is a great way to distract yourself from the fact that not only can you improve at your work—but that you’re also pretty qualified to do what you’ve been hired to do anyway. And when you panic and start looking for something you’re “more equipped to do,” chances are you’ll just end up finding something that doesn’t make you feel any more secure.
How to Deal
If this is you, ask yourself whether you’re searching for a new job because you really want to find something new—or if you’re doing it to avoid being fired. If you really hate what you’re doing, then go for it.
But if you’re enjoying your work and are just trying to avoid getting the boot, you should probably take my advice from above, have that chat with your boss, and get that necessary confidence boost that you’re not in danger of becoming unemployed. No really, I spoke to my boss about my insecurities (and wrote about it here) and it was a gamechanger.
There’s a lot to be said about dealing with the feeling that you’re just not good enough. But at much as I can relate, there are times when you need to take a good look in the mirror. How much are you getting in your own way?
As someone who deals with it on a daily basis, take it from me—there are plenty of things you’re taking the wrong way, and there are ways you can combat them before it gets completely out of control.
Photo of person thinking courtesy of jeffbergen/Getty Images.
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy or follow his blog.More from this Author