Impostor Syndrome: Or, How To Succeed In Business While Secretly Feeling Like A Total Fraud

I don't talk about work much here. Part of the reason that I have a blog is to give myself some kind of a creative outlet outside of my working life. My job is largely customer service oriented, and while I do enjoy it, sometimes I feel like I spend 8 or 9 hours a day wearing a mask, on my guard. As a general rule, I don't really want to devote any more brain space to something that already take up most of my waking hours.

Recently it was announced that I was getting a promotion. On the one hand, I'm really excited about it; I feel like I'm someone who can rise to a challenge, and as my company is starting to move me into management positions, I'm interested in diving into my new duties.

On the other hand, I spend a lot of time feeling like none of the things that I've gotten credit for are really my accomplishments. When difficult situations come up, I worry that I won't handle them correctly. When things do end up working out, I worry that I still could have dealt with them better. Mainly, I just worry - that the members of my team don't like or respect me as much as they say they do, that I'm going to make some kind of huge mistake that I won't be able to fix, that my managers will just change their minds about my abilities after seeing me in action for any length of time. Honestly, it's exhausting.

When I step back and try to think about things rationally, I can recognize the skills that I have that make me objectively valuable. When my supervisor took a new position and my manager, who works from New York, was ill and largely not available to help me, I ran things virtually on my own for the better part of 6 months, working overtime and odd shifts to make sure that we had coverage, figuring out the different systems for billing and payments, and keeping the rest of my team going until things got back to normal. I try to be aware of the ways that I can improve, being more patient, more proactive, better at communicating with the people around me, so that I don't keep making the same mistakes that I've made before. 

Sometimes I do find it difficult to be rational and objective, though. If I hit a bump in the road, I end up spending days, sometimes weeks agonizing over how it's all going to work out, convinced that I'm going to end up demoted, or fired, or drawn and quartered or something. When I make a mistake, either I freeze up and let it build, hoping it will go away, or I get frantic about fixing it and over-correct.

Or at least, that's the way that it feels. Obviously none of my "catastrophes" have turned out to be that serious or I wouldn't be where I am now, and relatively few people have ever seemed to notice my internal turmoil.


There are a lot of people out there who feel the same way that I do. Self doubt is natural, but what's important is not letting it take you over. I've been reading some advice for how to deal with impostor syndrome, and here are a few of my favorite tips.

1. It's about doing your best, not being the best.
Everyone makes mistakes, small and large. It's unrealistic to expect perfection of yourself, so if that's the bar that you're setting, you'll never feel like you're doing good enough. Consistently put in your best effort, and always strive for improvement, but don't beat yourself up over your mistakes.

2. Don't let fear keep you from being ambitious.
This applies to my blog as much as it does to my working life, actually. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I've always felt embarrassed about reaching out to companies for sponsorship because I worry that I don't deserve them. I was surprised, and grateful, when some folks commented that I should really go for it because my content will appeal, even if my numbers aren't as strong. Which brings me to my next point...

3. You are responsible for your successes.
I'm great about taking ownership of my failures, but give me a compliment and I have no idea what to do with it. My team blew everyone else out of the water on our latest survey? Well, I have an amazing team who did all of the hard work of making us look good. I take over a new task with zero issues? Yeah, an 8 year old could use this system. This is, apparently, something that women tend to do a lot, and it's something that we need to move past in order to really become successful. Own your successes just as much as your failures. It's not the universe coming together to make everything work out - you did the work.

So, does anyone else go through the same thing? How do you deal with those feelings?