Updated: Apr 23
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome online
Have you ever logged into LinkedIn, eager to find out what’s happening in the world of work, and logged off feeling utterly deflated?
See other people’s posts and feel like a failure or a fraud?
Bamboozled by how everyone seems so on top of everything?
Managing to fake it but wondering when you'll make it?
You might have Imposter Syndrome.
Fear being found out? You’re not alone
If you live in fear of being ‘found out’ at work, you might have Imposter Syndrome.
Obviously, it depends what you’re worried people will find out.
If you’re worried they’ll find out you’ve been pilfering the petty cash, or are the phantom non-flusher of the office toilets, you’ve got bigger issues to worry about.
But if you’re worried that it is only a matter of time before people realise you’re totally out of your depth, you could have Imposter Syndrome.
People with Imposter Syndrome:
are plagued by a feeling of self-doubt at work
irrationally believe that they are no good at their job
fear being discovered as a fraud at any moment
It can hold people back from progressing in their career and undermine the mental health of many successful people.
Have I got Imposter Syndrome or am I just a fraud?
Let’s make this clear. Some people feel incompetent at work because they are. Even worse are the people who are incompetent at work and don’t realise.
But people with IS feel incompetent despite evidence to the contrary.
Professional success? All down to luck
Compliment from a colleague? They’re just being nice
Promotion? Oh my god, I’m in over my head
Think you might have Imposter Syndrome? Wishful thinking; you're just rubbish
It can lead to stress and anxiety in the workplace, as sufferers live in fear of exposure. And LinkedIn can make life a whole lot worse for people who experience these uncomfortable feelings.
Social media - friend or foe?
We’re coming round to the double-edged sword of social media.
Facebook is a wonderful way to keep in touch with friends but we know it can lead to FOMO as you scroll through engagements, Maldives holidays and expensive new homes.
Instagram has acknowledged the link between social media and mental health recently, and announced they were experimenting with hiding ‘likes’ to remove the pressure people feel for approval from their peers.
But LinkedIn seems to have escaped this level of scrutiny.
Perhaps because it is a professional, rather than social, network.
But I’ve definitely seen the same issues at play here as on other networks. The trolls, the braggards, the faux failures... (You know the type. 'Learn how failure turned me into a multi-millionaire in just two weeks'...bluergh).
These people - and these posts - can lead to the same feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.
Even seemingly innocuous posts from peers celebrating their successes can make us feel like we're not as good as we should be.
So how can you squash your internal imposter and enjoy your success? Follow my top tips to overcome Imposter Syndrome and make the most of your LinkedIn membership.
Five top tips for overcoming Imposter Syndrome
1. Don’t believe the hype
We all try to present our best professional selves on LinkedIn but it is easy to feel like other members are more successful, more confident, more talented than us.
But, like any social network, what we see is often highly curated content.
LinkedIn is a platform for professional networking and that means personal branding too.
Many of us share content specifically designed to make us look our best to potential employers or customers.
Like most of working life, LinkedIn is part-performance. Learn the difference between what's acting and what's actually true.
2. Stop comparing yourself to others
Theodore Roosevelt said ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. We can be perfectly happy in ourselves – how we look, what we earn, our professional skills – until we see someone we consider more attractive, better paid, more successful.
Then our own achievements are undermined. It is like dessert envy. We’re happy with our knickerbocker glory until someone orders the caramel cheesecake… Does their dessert make ours taste any less fabulously fruity? No.
Unless you're looking for a new insurance provider, don't compare, unless it is in your interest to do so. Which brings me on to number three...
3. Keep learning
Some people may be better than you. There, I said it. But so what?
You really think you’re going to be no 1 in a population of six billion?
Everyone has different talents and everyone is at a different stage of their career and personal journey. If you see someone who is doing something better than you, learn from them.
Follow their blog, don’t hide from it
See how they present themselves and pick up some tips
Ask for advice and learn from their mistakes instead of making your own
You never know, there might be someone doing exactly the same with you...
4. Kick luck into touch
Imposter Syndrome is the anxiety that grows in the gap between other people’s perception of us and our own.
When you are prone to self-doubt, it is hard to look objectively at yourself. You overlook achievements and the hard work you put in to get there, attributing success to luck.
Try to step outside your own feelings and make a list of what you’ve achieved. Take that a step further and consider how you achieved it.
You'll see luck had little to do with it and you've earned your success.
5. Ignore the imp
Dr Lee Baer coined the term ‘the imp of the mind’ in his work on Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
It describes the internal voice that takes delight in undermining our mental health and happiness. We all have an imp – an ugly jumble of doubt, anxiety, criticism, past experiences. It squats on our shoulder, ready to remind us of everything that can go wrong, all the stupid things we’ve ever said, all the hurtful criticism we’ve ever received.
It gives voice to all the horrible things that demotivate us. But it is a peddler of fake news. Like the worst tabloid newspapers, it deals in fear, not facts. Stop listening to the imp and start listening to the actual compliments you receive.
Recognise the imp (The imp is at it again...*eye roll*)
Challenge the imp (Oh that's right, is it...?)
Ignore the imp (You're not helping, so I'm not listening)
Found this helpful? Please pass it on. Share this post with someone you think might like it. We don't need to suffer alone.
About the author
Libby is a freelance copywriter and content marketer from Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She worked in marketing and communications for 18 years before turning freelance in 2019. She's written for big brands and boutique businesses, crafting customer-friendly marketing content for print and online.
An advocate for honesty around mental health, Libby has personal experience of pregnancy depression, OCD and social anxiety. She seeks to confront the stigma around these conditions - and support other sufferers - whenever possible.