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Feeling Like An Imposter in Your Career

You made it!

Your sacrifices were high- maybe they were time, money, energy, or relationships. But you are here now, in this career and space you carved out for yourself. Your career is well on track, and by all accounts, you’ve arrived.

So why does it all feel fake?

You can recall the effort it took to get here. The lost sleep and long nights, the expenses of another course, a new program, more equipment—in more ways than one, you’ve paid your dues. Even though you worked so hard to get here, you feel like you don’t belong. As if somehow you’ve pulled the wool over the right person’s eyes and fleeced your way into the career of your dreams without being deserving of it.

This feeling—imposter syndrome—happens to a lot of people. But what is it? Where does it come from, and what can be done about it?

What’s Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is the feeling of not belonging or deserving the achievement or role you currently occupy. It’s the term we use when “What if I don’t belong here” and “But I’m not good enough” become such loud refrains in your head that you struggle to retain confidence in your knowledge or capability. Imposter syndrome stems from the internalized belief that you are a fraud and that you may be ‘found out’ at any minute.

The challenging nature of this phenomenon is that even when others try to help realign you with a truer vision of yourself, it only reinforces your belief that the way others perceive you is far superior to what and who you truly are.

How does Imposter Syndrome impact your career?

Imposter syndrome feels like an amplification of hesitation and doubt, particularly in situations where you have authority or sway that you think you don’t deserve. In your career, Imposter Syndrome may lead to thoughts of insecurity about your experience or education that supported your success so far. Those thoughts may make it difficult to express your opinions, set boundaries, or speak up to co-workers or authority figures. When you can’t adequately express yourself, you will likely feel frustrated, and these feelings will strip you of your confidence.

These feelings can show up in a number of additional ways:

  • Self-doubt and an inability to see yourself clearly

  • Berating yourself for needing help or asking for it

  • Ruminating on how you “should” have done better/known better/been better

  • Extreme humility and attributing your success to external factors

  • Overworking yourself

  • Seeking the unattainable standard of perfection at the cost of your own comfort and safety

  • Fear of others and your own expectations

In many ways, the fear that others may think of you as a fraud can be a powerful inhibitor to accessing the very knowledge that earned you the position or respect you now hesitate to own.

Why is this happening?

The workforce currently dominating professional spheres and those now entering it has done so in unprecedented uncertainty. Through economic upheaval, changes in power, and a global pandemic, we as a collective have been through a lot of recalibration. “In case of emergency” has become a way of life instead of a contingency, and living that way breeds a level of uncertainty into every aspect of our world. Work, in particular, heightens many of those feelings.

While you work hard toward creating a career you can feel fulfilled by, you’re working on an ever-shifting landscape. Companies shutter and pivot, their needs adjust and the way they gauge performance does too. The qualifications and expectations grow higher as salaries do not. Tension grows, but patience does not. Our global circumstances have created the perfect storm to latch on to our fears of fraudulency or failure and ensure they flourish.

Where do we go from here?

Well, for a start, you can come to counseling. Our clinician Griffin Smith is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in working with individuals in corporate settings and others who are experiencing workplace distress. Our team would be honored to support you in realizing your accomplishments and reframing them so they feel like something you can own and be proud of. Even if you don’t live in Virginia or Georgia, there are plenty of therapists near you who are trained to help. Often, as more therapists are available through telehealth, help is just a few clicks away!

While Imposter Syndrome does not have a space in the DSM as an official disorder, its very real impacts can be managed with many similar techniques developed to support those with anxiety. We can work together to increase your confidence and create affirmations that support it. You earned the space you take up, and we want to help you flourish in it. You aren’t fooling anyone. You just really are that good!


Click here to schedule with Griffin today and remember to follow us on Instagram for updates from the Coastal Light Counseling team and to be in the loop as we post new blogs!


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