September 14, 2020 5 min read

It’s not easy to admit that imposter syndrome hits us all from time to time. It’s that nagging sensation that shoots to the front of your thoughts as you go about your workday until it’s all you hear: that you are a fraud and don’t belong here. It’s a belief rooted in self-doubt and fear that somehow you, yes you, just lucked out, in getting where you are today. This self-impression utterly disregards your talents, your skills and all the other attributes that make you successful. Shelly Elsliger, a LinkedIn Express Coach, points out how this plays out on LinkedIn but it’s an issue that occurs online and offline. To overcome imposter syndrome and squash down self-doubt, it takes serious acknowledgment and then some that’ll require practice, progress and patience.


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Identifying Imposter Syndrome

Who exactly came up with the terminology of imposter syndrome and why is that important? Not only does it showcase some serious brainpower taking the phenomenon seriously, but it also shows that it’s been around longer than you think. Discussed by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanna Imes in 1978, imposter syndrome was described as “an experience of feeling incompetent and of having deceived others about one's abilities.” In their research, they particularly observed this in many college students and young professionals and dove into figuring out how it worked.

Distressed young man sitting on park bench.They broke down imposter syndrome in a variety of levels such as fear of failure, the luck factor, the desire to stand out, not living up to others’ expectations and then the flip side of not accepting others’ recommendations. All of that boils down to feeling like a fraud. With so many root causes, it’s no wonder that many experience this at one point or another. Like Lupita Nyong’o, you know the Oscar-winning actress who still admits to experiencing it despite having that golden statue on her mantle. The bottom line: by identifying where your imposter syndrome lies, you’ve taken the first step into reclaiming your narrative.

Online Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome doesn’t stop at the doors of your workplace. It can manifest in many areas of your life which might make it difficult to show the best sides of you. For your professionalism, how to market yourself properly online is key. Online isn’t just a space where we go to unwind anymore. It’s also where we go to network ourselves and with others. Feeling like a fraud and not being confident in what you have to offer might be stopping you from building that online portfolio you’ve always wanted or even completing your LinkedIn profile.

Shelly discusses this in her video series and how imposter syndrome might make capable and talented professionals limit themselves to either just the ‘like’ option or not say anything at all. There’s probably someone out there who’s already said what you said, right? Why bother? Here’s the rub: your voice may just be one among millions but that’s what makes it unique. Your perspective is yours alone. Your content is worthy of sharing and someone out there will definitely resonate with it. You might not ever know but it’s better than leaving it a definite blank slate with zero chances of discoverability.

Don’t forget the perils of the online world: not everybody is as they seem. Find the balance of being genuinely you and you’ll find that self-doubt shed away bit by bit.

Prepare Your Strategy & Say Goodbye to the Fraud

With all that in mind, here are a few other ways of coping next time you start calling yourself a fraud. Try a few different methods to see what works best for you so you can say goodbye to all that self-doubt.

  • Positive Self Talk: give yourself the pep talk of the year and list all your best qualities. Say them out loud in front of a mirror or write it down in a journal. We’re a fan of mindfulness and have the blog to prove it here.
  • The Bigger Picture: look at how far you’ve come. Are those signs of fraud? Didn’t think so. Now keep moving forward; this too will pass.
  • Milestone Tracking:reconfirm the facts about your professional milestones. That’s right, it’s time to get to the results that you achieved. You could call it your portfolio, or you could call it a brag folder but at the end of the day it’s all you.
  • Emotional Binge Watch:we don’t mean Netflix here. We mean finding all the inspirational videos that discuss the struggle and triumph in professionalism. TedTalks are great at this but CMA NXT also has great and real career stories if we don’t say so ourselves.
  • Accept It & Prepare: the tricky part of imposter syndrome is that there isn’t an easy fix. It might pop up again and again for you. Rather than be discouraged, accept the fact that as much as this is uncomfortable, you’ve dealt with it before.

Let’s Talk About It: Self-Doubt & Vulnerability

Female hiker sitting edge of cliff overlooking a path in valley.

For online imposter syndrome, Shelly encourages asking questions from fellow connections on content ideas you may have. If you’re afraid to post an article, tagging a few colleagues might make that seem less daunting. Maybe they’ll even be open to further collaboration and that’ll motivate you to put it out there once and for all. You never know if someone is willing to help out if you don’t bother asking in the first place.

We all know the value of networking lies in not only potential job opportunities but also the genuine connection you create with others. If you’ve found yourself in a virtual coffee chat with someone you truly admire and respect, maybe it’s time to ask that tough question. It’s going to be intimidating, uncomfortable and above all, extremely vulnerable. Remember that imposter syndrome loves making us feel that we’re alone in our experience and that everyone else has their life together. By talking about it with others you regain some ground and that fear you had? It’s like hot air escaping a balloon.

Don't think about others as competition, think more about collaboration. Those people are the people that can help you build your content. —Shelly Elsliger

A High Note: You Are Worthy

The next time a situation arises where you find yourself alone with your self-doubt, take a breath. Imposter syndrome is a state of mind which means you have the ability to reframe your mindset. We understand that sometimes we can be our own worst critics but only give that voice a small stage. Remind yourself that not only did you build the theatre, but you own it. You’re worthy of what’s to come because you’ve worked for it.

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