Battling Imposter Syndrome for Remote Workers

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Imposter syndrome — a term coined by clinical psychologists in the late 1970s — is a psychological pattern of behavior in which an individual doubts his or her accomplishments and is persistently (often internally) afraid of being exposed as a fraud. If you have imposter syndrome, you likely feel underqualified (or unworthy of) your job, even though noted success proves your capabilities. Although everyone at your job considers you a high-performing employee, you live with persistent fear.

Remote work adds an extra layer to imposter syndrome because remote employees working alone in their home offices or with headphones at local cafés don’t have the same kind of feedback network as a traditional office environment. In a traditional office space, it’s easy to chat over a cubicle wall or at the proverbial water cooler, whereas it takes more effort to engage with remote co-workers to exchange ideas, discuss client feedback, or share appreciation or accolades. This article will explore four common imposter syndrome challenges and how you can overcome them while working from home.

1. Stay social.

Without an office to travel to every day, remote workers can easily feel disconnected from the outside world. When they already feel isolated, they may quickly begin underestimating themselves and their work capabilities.

Solution: Try remaining active on your remote communication channels, — WeChat, WhatsApp Messenger, etc. If your company has channels dedicated to fun water cooler chat, join in! You never know what you may have in common with your co-workers and what you all may enjoy together. Also, publicly ask any work-related questions. Others may struggle with the same issues and need extra clarification.

2. Embrace your mistakes to achieve success.

It can be tough for any employee, whether he or she works remotely or in an office, to accept constructive criticism. If digested the wrong way, constructive criticism can lead to self-doubt, thus adding more fuel to imposter syndrome.

Solution: This may sound odd, but when self-doubt creeps in, don’t squelch it entirely. Learn how to distinguish anxiety and self-criticism, repurposing them into productive feelings. Feelings exist for a reason, so putting a name and purpose behind them will help you address your mistakes head on.

3. Establish a work/life balance plan that works for you.

Many remote workers tend to work too many hours, struggling to separate work time from personal time. In a common pattern called the imposter cycle, coined by researchers Jaruwan Sakulku and James Alexander, an individual begins by feeling anxious when he or she receives a new task, followed by over-preparing and finally spending way more time and effort on a project than necessary. When the project is successfully completed, instead of acknowledging a job well done, the individual grows falsely convinced that the project failed because he or she took additional hours to complete it. The thought of the next task can lead to a completely new round of anxiety.

Solution: Establish an effective work/life balance plan that works for you. Determine the time in which you’re the most productive and choose a work location outside of your home — your favorite Starbucks, your local library, etc. Instead of focusing on the time it takes you to complete a task, focus on the task itself. Try creating a list of projects you plan to accomplish in a given week. A good rule of thumb is the “15-minute rule.” If you find yourself spending too much time on a project or never thinking it’s “good enough” to submit, spend only 15 minutes on the task before asking for help and/or real-time feedback.

4. Assume others have good intent with communication.

In a remote work environment, communication requires significant effort. Since it’s difficult to decipher tone in emails, Slack messages, etc., those with imposter syndrome can struggle to internalize good feedback and may even dwell on perceived critiques. They may falsely interpret a co-worker’s tone as harsh or short.

Solution: A good best practice is to always assume your peers have good intentions when communicating. Even in chat tools like Slack where emojis and gifs can be added to conversations, you may read your co-workers’ tones completely differently than you would over the phone or on video calls. Assuming good intent can help wash away worries about communication. If you still struggle, never be afraid to ask a co-worker or supervisor to connect via video and clarify their meaning.

Have you ever felt like a fraud at work? Has remote working helped or hurt your confidence? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Author: Alisiana Peters

Alisiana is a senior marketing coordinator at HiringThing, an award-winning online recruiting software provider dedicated to changing the way businesses hire talent. Questions? Contact HiringThing Marketing.

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