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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work Relationships

The 3 Best Moves to Make When You're Dealing With Imposter Syndrome

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One part of your brain feels pretty sure you’ve been doing a really good job at work lately. But the other part’s suspicious that you’re not. Nobody’s told you that’s the case, and you’ve even gotten some positive feedback from your colleagues recently. But still, you can’t help but wonder if you’re one mistake away from losing your job.

After all, if you had to be honest with yourself, you’re nothing but a no-good fraud who shouldn’t have the position to begin with, right?

If this inner monologue sounds familiar to you, don’t worry—you’re not alone. As Muse writer Ximena Vengoechea says in an article on impostor syndrome, many people fall victim to it at some point or another. But instead of getting too caught up in fears you’re not good enough at your job, work to overcome them instead.

1. Vent to Someone Who Won’t Say “Just Get Over It”

I’m often guilty of assuming that I’m helping someone when I say, “That thing you’re worried about is not really a thing, so you’ll be better off if you can just get over it.” And sure, some people are just predisposed to whining for the sake of having something (anything!) to complain about.

But in many other instances, the person on the receiving end doesn’t understand that you just need to work through your worries aloud. That’s especially the case when it comes to your career fear of being “found out to be an imposter.”

Unless you’ve assembled the least sensitive group of friends on the planet, I bet you can think of one or two people who are really good at listening to you vent. So, reach out to those people and explain how afraid you are that you’ll walk into work one day and run into your replacement on the way in. Let them know you’re just looking for someone to listen to you-and not to resolve your problem.

The benefit of having someone around to simply listen is simple: Many times, you’ll feel better after you’ve had a chance to talk through your concerns aloud.

2. Review What You’ve Accomplished Recently

Personally, whenever I get nervous that my boss isn’t pleased with me, I lose sight of the fact that I’ve gotten a lot done recently. And while it wouldn’t do you any favors to email your entire company with a list of recent achievements, it never hurts to review your accomplishments for the sake of reminding yourself that you bring a lot of value to your role.

There are a few ways you can do this. For me, I keep track of my to-do list with a free app called Trello, which allows me to organize things the way I want. For you, it might be a handwritten list of the things you’ve knocked out of the park lately. There are no rules to keeping track of what makes you not-so-replaceable. Find what works for you, and treat yourself to regular check-ins to remind yourself that you’re doing some important work.

3. Talk to Your Boss

On the surface, this might sound crazy to a lot of people. After all, not everyone has a manager who understands basic human goals and fears the way we hope. And if you happen to have a boss who micromanages you, it’s perfectly understandable if your first instinct isn’t to go to him and open up about how afraid you are that you’re not living up to expectations.

But if you do have a good relationship, it might be worth your time to have this awkward conversation. Because there are really only two outcomes you’ll experience if you do. If you’re doing a good job and are just paranoid about being replaced, your boss will reaffirm the fact that you have nothing to worry about.

However, if there is something you could be doing differently (and your suspicions are right), there’s no better person to discuss next steps with. Your ultimate goal is to avoid getting replaced, and because of that, nobody on the face of the earth would have better advice than the person who supervises you every day.

So, take a chance on your boss and say something along the lines of, “I wanted to check in on my recent work and see what you think I could be improving on.”

It’s never a good feeling to go into work and think, “Uh oh, today’s the day my boss decides to upgrade my role with someone better than me.” And trust me, you’re not the first person to feel this, and you’re definitely not the last.

But at the same time, take a step back and think about where this fear is coming from. Is it coming from long talks with your manager and HR about your performance, or is it stemming from a recent mistake (or even fear of a mistake) you made? If it’s the latter, do yourself a favor and find ways to get the affirmation you need right now. You deserve it more than you might even realize.

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