I relate imposter syndrome to this situation I was in when I was a child. My mother would randomly quiz me on simple mathematical problems. Math wasn’t my strongest suit, and mental arithmetics even less so. But when my mother gave me a math problem, I needed to answer it, and quickly. At times I would give an answer I knew to be correct, but my mother would challenge me: “Are you sure?”
Those three words would send panic into my system and I would frantically do the math again, even though I knew the answer should be accurate. This earned me another round of scolding from my mother: “How can you be so unsure of yourself if the answer is correct? Why don’t you have confidence in your answer?”
Imposter syndrome in recent times
Even until my adulthood, I continue self-doubting everything I do. I’ve worked as a journalist for over 10 years and sometimes I even doubt my own writing skills. It was only several years ago that I came across the term “imposter syndrome” and realised that it was what I’ve been going through all these years. It’s when you feel that most of your successes in life have been due to luck rather than hard work and ability, and eventually someone is going to call you out for the fraud that you are.
Unfortunately, it’s not just me — plenty of millennials also suffer from imposter syndrome. In fact, according to a survey by Careercake, over 49% of millennials struggle with Imposter Syndrome at work. So why are we so insecure about our achievements that we have clearly worked so hard for?
One big reason is because we millennials have, for the longest time, been dubbed the “strawberry generation” by Boomers and Gen Xs. We’ve swung in between being babied for our entire life by the Boomers (our parents) who worked hard to give us a good life, yet when it comes to accomplishments, we’ve been largely invalidated simply because the older generation thinks that everything we’ve done was just handed to us on a silver platter.
With this mindset drilled into us growing up, it’s not surprising that most of us feel like anything we’ve ever achieved up till now was no more than just “luck” or handed over to us. With these feelings of inadequacy come other mental health issues, including anxiety, stress, and depression.
Luckily, you’re not alone. While it might feel like imposter syndrome is always lurking around the corner, ready to pounce each time you’ve accomplished something at work, there are ways to curb it.
Track and take note of your successes
It’s easy to feel like all your achievements were a stroke of luck, so it’s important that you track all of your successes, whether it’s work or personal. Each time you feel inadequate, look back at your achievements and feel validated that all those were accomplished by you.
Talk to a mentor about imposter syndrome
Do you have someone you look up to in life or at work that you can talk to? Speak to them and tell them about your feeling of inadequacies — true mentors will assure you that you have been doing a perfectly good job or offer advice on how you can improve. With their validation, you can see from an outsider’s perspective that you’ve been doing well all this while.
Learn how to reward yourself
Remember all the times you tried to brush off your achievements, even to yourself? Stop doing that. The next time you feel yourself about to say it was all pure luck, stop that thought. Instead, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
Don’t compare other people’s achievements to yours
This will be a challenging one, especially in today’s social media world where everyone seems to have the perfect life. Don’t compare your achievements with what others have achieved. We don’t all live the same life and doing so will only make you feel worse about yourself. Instead, look at your own accomplishments and how far you’ve come. Remember: social media is not real life. But reading up on career advice from a surprising avenue like TikTok, for example, can help give you a boost.
Speak to a therapist about imposter syndrome
If you feel like you’re completely in despair and nothing helps, perhaps going for therapy might. A therapist will help you recognise these feelings and create new behaviour patterns for you to adopt. In time, you can overcome imposter syndrome.