Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

An image of a woman sitting behind a widow with her desk beside her.  She looks pensive and unsure.

By Jacqueline Riselay, CHRP - Future Ready Premium Program Career Coach with Student and Graduate Employment

Have you ever found yourself questioning whether you belonged in a certain situation? Like everyone around you was smarter than you or knew more about the topic of discussion, and you thought that any minute they were going to find out that you had absolutely no idea what you were doing?

I have. 

And that, my friends, is called Imposter Syndrome. 

If you are not familiar with this term, according to Psychology Today (n.d), Imposter Syndrome occurs when you believe that you are not as competent or intelligent as others might think you are, and that at any minute people are going to find out that you don’t really know what you’re doing. 

Imposter Syndrome is typically experienced by high achievers who set unrealistic standards for themselves and when they do find success, they often attribute it to luck or other external factors. 

Research suggests that “around 25 to 30 percent of high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome. And around 70 percent of adults may experience imposterism at least once in their lifetime” (Psychology Today, n.d.).

So, we know that these feelings are quite common among us, but how do we overcome them?


Keep a Log of Your Accomplishments and Positive Feedback

Part of experiencing Imposter Syndrome involves having trouble taking credit for things you have accomplished and acknowledging your abilities. Because of this, in order to overcome it, you have to intentionally look for things you have done well and practice recognizing your efforts in those accomplishments. I like to keep a log any time I have accomplished something, whether it be big or small. 

You want to write down the accomplishment and perhaps even more importantly, write down the actions you took that led to that accomplishment. This will help to change your perspective to become more aware of the credit you deserve rather than attributing everything to luck or other factors. 

Just like having a gratitude practice, the more you practice recognizing your accomplishments, the more primed your brain will become to spot them. 

And when I say write down your accomplishments, I know how difficult it can be to come up with these, so don’t be afraid to start small. And when I say start small, I mean they can be tiny. Something as small as making an appointment you have been putting off, putting together a meal for yourself, drinking lots of water in the day or getting some kind of movement in when you aren’t feeling like it are all accomplishments. Once you start realizing all of the little things that you do in a day, you can move on to some bigger accomplishments. 

A tip with respect to logging these accomplishments is to jot them down as soon as you notice them. It can be difficult to take a moment out of your busy day to do this, but it is much more difficult to try and recall all of your accomplishments at the end of the day. 

Similar to an accomplishment log, it is also helpful to log any time you receive positive feedback from someone else. I have a folder in my email inbox titled “Recognition and Thanks” and any time I receive any type of recognition or words of thanks, no matter how small, I send them to that folder. This way I have a tangible reminder of how I have positively impacted others in my work. 


Solicit Feedback from Others

I just noted that you can keep a log of positive feedback that you receive, but something to keep in mind is that everyone is busy and unsolicited positive feedback can be hard to come by, even when you are doing a great job. 

This is why I also recommend actively soliciting feedback from others. You can ask a colleague, a supervisor, a friend, or anyone whose opinion you value to provide you with a list of things they think you do well, or things they are grateful for with respect to you. For example, if you have a work-related relationship with them, you can ask them to come up with things they think you do well in your role, or things that you have helped to support them with.

One thing to keep in mind when soliciting feedback is to not be pushy or expectant about it and ensure that you give them some time. Ask them if they would be willing to provide you with a list of one to three things that they appreciate about you with respect to whatever it is that you are not feeling confident in and don’t put them on the spot. Let them know that they can send those things to you via email on a timeline that works for them. Remember, they are the one who is doing you a favour. 


Intentionally Work on Areas Where You Lack Confidence

Some of us may have specific areas where we experience feeling like an imposter and for others it may be more generalized. Either way, you want to try to narrow down some specific situations where those feelings are coming up for you. 

Once you have identified some specific situations, you want to identify the knowledge or skills where you feel you are lacking so you can take action to enhance them. This might look like taking a course or taking on assignments or projects where you can practice those skills. Of course, it’s best to start small at first so you can experience some wins and then expand your practice as you become more confident. 


Find Like-Minded Individuals Who Can Support You

One of the biggest lies that Imposter Syndrome tells us is that we are alone in our feelings and everyone else is smarter or funnier or more skilled (or so many other things) than we are.  

I can tell you for an absolute fact that you are not the only one who has experienced this. I know this because I myself have experienced it many times, and of course because the research tells us that we are not alone. 

So, we need to go out there and find our people. 

Fortunately for us, it is becoming less taboo to talk about how we are feeling when we are not feeling confident, so it is a little easier to be able to connect with others who feel similar. 

You might do this by finding someone on LinkedIn who has posted about these feelings and connecting with them there. If you also struggle with feelings of anxiety, you could find an anxiety support group in your area and I would bet that many participants also struggle with Imposter Syndrome. 

Another great resource if it is something you are comfortable with, is talk therapy. Therapists have an amazing ability of being able to ask questions to support you in reframing your thoughts and challenging the stories that you tell yourself. 


Some Final Reminders 

It’s important to remember that you are not going to overcome Imposter Syndrome overnight. 

Changing your way of thinking is a process, so start with small actions and work your way up to larger ones. As you become more and more aware of your accomplishments and abilities, your confidence will build up over time. 

Another reminder is that like most things, this is not a linear process, so you may begin to feel more confident, you may then experience a big boost in confidence and then the next day you might find yourself in a meeting where you once again feel like an imposter. This is okay and it’s completely normal! There will be peaks and valleys in your journey, so be gentle with yourself, give yourself grace, and don’t give up on working to improve your confidence. 

In all honesty, I don’t know if you can ever truly overcome imposter syndrome, you might just have to continue to try and work through it. 

But what do I know… am I even qualified to be writing this article? ;) 



Psychology Today. (n.d). Imposter Syndrome. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/imposter-syndrome