Dealing with Imposter Syndrome

Illustration by Sabrina Newsome

Separate facts from feelings

“Facts have no feelings.”

Weather the storm

“Storms make trees take deeper roots.” — Dolly Parton

  • If you can’t think of a clever thing to say, ask a question. This shows that you were paying attention; it also gives you a voice and authority in the meeting.
  • If you can’t think of a question, give a compliment. You know how hard it can be to present or share ideas, so if you think someone did a great job — tell them. This will give them a confidence boost, but also keeps you in the mindset of positive thinking, i.e., “They did a great job and I can learn from them” rather than privately stewing, “I’m not as good as they are.”

Focus on your authentic voice and strengths

“Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.”

Find a wing-person

“Stop letting people who do so little for you control so much of your mind, feelings and emotions.”

Take things one step at a time

“Focus on the step in front of you. Not the staircase.”

Remember the real benchmark: you

“Want to be successful? Focus on your own shit.”

  • You’re in the right place, but being challenged: When you go through the steps above and can recognise that this was a moment of self-doubt, but you’re on the right path, then forge ahead. This is common when taking on new responsibilities or skills or when working with talented people — but consider the huge positives of those situations. You are developing and growing; you are around capable and talented people from whom you can learn (which, by the way, means you are capable and talented too and they likely feel the exact same way about you). Steady the course and keep going.
  • You’re not incapable, you’re just not in the right role: I’ve had two jobs that were not a good fit, and I knew it within days of starting the position. If you repeatedly feel unmotivated, uninterested and frustrated about the work, or if you feel culturally out of place to the point that you are miserable, it might be a case where you are just not in the right role. It happens, and can actually be an incredibly valuable way of figuring out what is the right role. After catastrophic positions, I took on roles that I absolutely loved and where the contrast was palpable. In these instances I strongly advise speaking to trusted sources and family, or seeking professional therapy or counselling — which I have also done and benefited from on multiple occasions — to help you form a plan of action to get into a new situation.

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Helene Sears

Helene Sears

UX Designer living & working in London. Currently team lead at Google, previously with Amazon, the Guardian and the BBC.