7 Tips for Dealing with Imposter Syndrome When Working from Home

Guest article by Mike Jones
Founder of BetterHappy.co.uk

What is imposter syndrome?

Although nobody wants to deal with imposter syndrome, it's actually a very normal human trait. For over one hundred thousand years, we lived as hunter-gatherers and, over that time, our minds have developed certain traits to increase the likelihood of survival.

Two of those traits play a large role in contributing to what so many of us experience today as imposter syndrome.

One trait of the mind was – in a pre-modern world where potential danger lurked around every corner – to avoid taking ANY risks that were anything less than absolutely necessary.

Another was to regularly compare ourselves to the other members of our tribe to ensure that we were fitting in. Not fitting in with the tribe brought with it the risk of expulsion which, during these times, was essentially a death sentence.

These traits were useful during those times, and they still have uses today – such as preventing us from being highly arrogant, walking in front of traffic, or jumping into a rhino enclosure! However, they also present themselves in ways that are unhelpful to modern life.

One of those ways is imposter syndrome. When your mind is telling you you're not good enough to do your job, not qualified enough, or not capable enough to apply for the promotion, it's actually just trying to talk you out of exposing yourself to any 'risk' or, worse still... judgement.

If you let these inner voices dictate, they can become detrimental to your performance, health, and happiness. You won't apply for the new jobs and opportunities you are more than capable of doing. Worse than that, you won't enjoy the work you are doing right now. Instead of enjoying your work, your work is fuelled by stress, by a constant need to work more to try and hide the false belief that what you are doing is not good enough.

Dealing with imposter syndrome when working from home vs office

When you're working on-site, in the office, this imposter syndrome is alleviated slightly. This is because, even though you don't think you're good enough, you're at least showing your team that you turn up and that you work.

When you are working from home, your imposter syndrome can run wild. It might say things like "you're not very good at this, the business probably thinks you're not even doing anything". Combine these unhelpful thoughts with a laptop and an internet connection at home and you've got the perfect recipe for overworking, stress, and burnout.

The ability to work from home is a gift of modern living. Less than 100 years ago in the UK, people were paid a pittance to work in terrible conditions. Today, we have a minimum wage, workers' rights, and the ability to work from the comfort of our own homes. For us to fully enjoy working from home, or anywhere for that matter, we have to create a healthy relationship with our imposter syndrome.

Your imposter syndrome will likely never go, it's just a part of being human but what you can do is create a healthy relationship with it. When you do so, you can do your best work, enjoy working, and be happy. Let’s explore my top tips for dealing with imposter syndrome…

Seven top tips for dealing with imposter syndrome when working from home

1 - Look it in the face

Don't try to hide from, or bury away, your imposter syndrome. It's not something to be ashamed of. Nor is it an accurate reflection of your capability. Instead, lean into it, listen to it, write it down, and analyse it. When you do this, the emotional grip it has over you starts to loosen, and you become more able to accept and let go of it.

2 - Diffuse your imposter syndrome

Diffusing your imposter syndrome means limiting the impact it has on you. There are a few ways in which you can do this. You can:

  • Write down what the thoughts are which create 'distance' between you and them.
  • De-catastrophise where you actively play out the worst-case scenarios of what could happen if your imposter syndrome were accurate.
  • Label regular streams of unhelpful thoughts. I.e. during my time in the military we were taught perfectionism saves lives which means now no matter how good my work is, there's a part of me saying it's not good enough. I label that the 'Critical Corporal'.

3 - Be open about your imposter syndrome and share with others

What your imposter syndrome tells you is largely an inaccurate perception of reality. If you keep it in your own head the risk of you buying into that perception is high. By sharing some of these thoughts with others you will get support and feedback that contradicts what your imposter syndrome is telling you. For example, say to your boss or manager "I don't feel like I'm doing a very good job" to which they will respond "you're doing a great job". Or let's say you don't have the world's best boss, then share your thoughts with someone you trust. A problem shared is a problem halved. From my own experience and working with others, I've realised a lot of us feel ashamed to share our imposter syndrome because we think it reflects poorly on our ability. You've just got to get over that stuff and get it out of your head.

4 - Have non-negotiable rules

Imposter syndrome will try to dictate your life, especially, as we've mentioned, when working from home. Create some clear non-negotiable rules, such as when you turn your computer off and when you check emails etc and only make exceptions to these rules in emergencies. I've found that many professionals mentally allow time for working in the evenings and on the weekends (unpaid). When you set clear boundaries, you'll get more done in less time. Over time this forces your mind to realise you don't have to work unpaid overtime to be good enough.

5 - Keep your working space away from personal space

It's hard not to think about and do work when you're in the office. Working from home creates a new challenge because your home becomes your office. Us humans are emotional creatures, so don't rely on your logical decision to not work past a certain time. If the computer or work stuff is out the temptation will be strong and you'll find it very difficult not to think about work. Have a clear, separate space for working in your house. If you don't have the luxury of space, then remove your work equipment at the end of the working shift and put it out of sight. A shameless plug for the DropTop™ here! Getting a DropTop™ has been a game changer in our house. We used to work on the dining room table then, when we could be bothered, carry all the computers and screens upstairs at the end of each day so we could eat dinner without seeing the work stuff. We now have a double monitor DropTop™ in our living room that flips away in 10 seconds and actually makes our living room look even better!

6 - Record and review your achievements

There's always more work to be done and always problems that need solving. Once you solve a problem it's replaced with a new problem. It's the nature of life, work, and business. Your imposter syndrome is looking for anything it can use to confirm you're not good enough, so it can talk you back into a comfortable lifestyle; where you aren't pushing yourself. To quieten it down, you have to make a discipline of consciously noting all the good you have done. This can be a weekly review or something as simple as a 'done' tab in your task management software. Even simpler, it can be all the things you've ticked off in your notebook. If you're feeling brave (which you should), you can actively ask for feedback from your manager/boss/colleagues/customers. Sure, you might hear some things you didn't want to hear but you'll hear tons of great stuff too (and you can fix the areas you might need to improve on, which we all have).

7 - Think 80%

If you're a bit of a perfectionist, that's probably your imposter syndrome. Sure, it's good to have high standards but perfection is, of course, impossible to achieve and it stems from a deep belief that what we're doing isn't ever good enough. This can actually serve us well early on in our careers because it naturally leads to high standards of work that people recognise and commend. The problem is we ignore the positive feedback and continue to work too much from a place of stress, never feeling satisfied. A great challenge for overcoming this is pressurising yourself to work to 80% ‘good enough’ for a month. Put things out and finish tasks when you are only 80% satisfied with them. What will happen is very little, if any, will come back to you. People will be more than happy with what you do and over time this forces the 'perfectionist' part of your mind to realise you are good enough. It will also lead to you getting your work done on time and not having to work for free with overtime.

Dealing with imposter syndrome: The conclusion

So, there you have my top seven tips for dealing with imposter syndrome while working from home. There's a lot of talk online about the high levels of burnout among employees in the UK and how businesses need to reduce workload to address it. My personal experience with burnout and working with hundreds of managers, leaders, and owners, leads me to believe something different. We don't need businesses to reduce workload. We need to increase the confidence and self-belief of the highly capable people we have in our businesses so they can manage and enjoy their workloads. I hope this article has helped you do that.

Better Happy is an employee engagement and wellbeing consultancy helping businesses thrive through their people.

Copyright © 2024 Pith & Stem.
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