Is imposter syndrome making you want to press the ‘eject’ button?

Have you recently felt like handing in your resignation? Well, you’re not alone in that. Research tells us that 1 in 4 workers have quit their jobs in the last year and 41% of workers are considering changing professions this year. Are you about to join The Great Resignation?

There are of course many reasons for people leaving their jobs, including childcare issues, working conditions, burnout and a general awakening to how different life can be if you don’t have to go into an office or workplace every day.

But a new study has found that one of the reasons so many people may be leaving a job is imposter syndrome. In the UK 77% of people suffer with imposter syndrome, but during lockdown some found these feelings decreased due to working from home.

According to the University of Nottingham, there was a 75 per cent decrease in feelings of imposter syndrome in 2020 compared to the year before, when we were in the physical office.

Associate Professor Dr. Terri Simpkin, from the University of Nottingham, commented: “Imposter Phenomenon is related to context. If the context changes, so can experiences of Imposterism. It’s socially constructed, so change the social circumstances and the experience may change too.”

Not everyone feels the same. While you may have loved working from home, you may equally have experienced intensified feelings of self-doubt combined with feeling deflated and isolated. Working remotely for significant periods of time can impact company culture, social integration, and being in the general swing of it all. All those virtual meetings and a lack of true connection with colleagues have taken their toll. You might have felt out of the loop and disconnected and started to doubt your skills.

And now hybrid working is causing mixed feelings. “Now many of us are office-based for part of the week and in many ways it’s good to go back in, to feel connected and really add value to the organisation,” says learning and development coach Debbie Green.

“But also there’s some insecurity. ‘What if the person I want to go in and speak to isn’t there? What if I can’t get a desk?’ If you’re not necessarily going to be in on the same day as your team or boss, you therefore won’t be visible enough. And there’s a danger you could feel excluded because you’re not in on the day a crucial meeting takes place. So it’s causing more stress and insecurity and that then feeds into ‘How do I contribute? Am I good enough to really contribute to the workspace?’”

Hybrid working is presenting new challenges, with meetings happening between office-based staff and people WFH but joining on screen. “Those joining remotely feel that they can’t really engage in that conversation. Imposter syndrome creeps in because they’re losing their visibility,” says Debbie.

“They’re starting to compare themselves to their more visible colleagues and pushing themselves harder to live up to possibly unrealistic standards or comparisons that aren’t there, or the perception that they’re not being seen. So they have to work harder and are constantly questioning “Am I good enough? Am I going to be noticed? And have my competence levels dropped?’”

You may have found lockdown and WFH presented the opportunity to be freer in the way you worked, whereas now things are returning to some kind of normality you’re suddenly being micromanaged and feeling observed more. “This can feed into that self-doubt and those feelings of imposter syndrome” says Debbie.

How to handle those feelings

* Try not to make assumptions about how other people feel about you, for example assuming your boss thinks you’re rubbish at your job. You are projecting your own misconceptions about yourself onto others.

* Returning to the office? Cue an influx of LinkedIn posts as workers race to post optimistic and motivational posts about getting an ounce of normality back. Like all social media, LinkedIn can be tough on us if we’re feeling down. People only post their best and highest achievements rather than the times they’ve failed on a huge project or are struggling to keep up with their workload.

* Avoid putting pressure on yourself and take a break from social media, including LinkedIn – unless your job relies on it. Ease yourself back into it when you’ve settled back into office life and you feel ready to see what other people are posting about.

* Look at what you’ve accomplished so far in your career and be grateful for all you’ve achieved. Overcome feelings of fear and anxiety and recognise your successes. Sometimes, this might be difficult. But with 77 per cent of the UK experiencing imposter syndrome, you can take comfort in the fact that the majority of people around you also experience this totally normal feeling. You are not alone, and you are not an imposter.

If you really feel like quitting

Ask yourself some questions. “What do you want out of your work life now? Is the job you have the job you really want? Do you really want to quit, or is it just insecurity that’s making you feel like running?” asks Debbie.

Do your research. Find out more about what your next steps might be. “Whether you want to change career or find your dream job, what research have you done before you press go?” asks Debbie.

What are you good at now? “What have you learned about yourself, based on what we’ve just gone through in the last 18 months? What are your skills, talents and abilities that can drive you forward into whatever you choose? Get clear on your transferable skills,” says Debbie.

List your achievements. Remind yourself of what you’re super proud of in your career. This is especially important if you’re experiencing imposter syndrome right now. Running through your ‘greatest hits’ will boost your sense of your own worth.

Says Debbie: “By writing down your achievements and all the skills, qualities and talents that have enabled you to make them happen, you can create your own blueprint for success. Being clear on who you are now and what you can offer will help you move forwards with positivity as you plan your next moves”.

Words: Marina Gask

With research and expert comments thanks to Charles Tyrwhitt

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