Dream Team: Recognising Impostor Syndrome in yourself or a teammate

Karolina Kubala

 · 01/21/2022  · 01/21/2022

We’re getting ready to smash 2022, but we’re also taking a minute to consider mental health. Did you know that, based on numerous studies, at least 1 in 10 people struggle with Impostor Syndrome at some point in their life? Evgeny Klimenchenko, one of our superstar Software Engineers, has, and they’ve written an awesome blog post on recognising and tackling it. Check it out, you might be glad that you did.

In my career as a Software Engineer, I've always had this feeling of not belonging, feeling as though I’m in the wrong place, that I don’t deserve to be here, and people around me will notice soon enough.No matter how well I managed to do my job or what level of proficiency I had in a particular topic, I've always thought that people around me knew or could do better than me. I avoided giving advice, presenting my ideas, and engaging in interesting professional conversations between my colleagues because I was afraid that they’d find out I was a fraud.

Does this sound familiar to you? Don't worry. We are not alone.

Based on numerous studies, at least 1 out of 10 people struggle with the same thought patterns at some point in their life. This is known as Impostor Syndrome.

What is Impostor Syndrome?

“Impostor Syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome, or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments.”

Impostor Syndrome can influence anybody's life. Some of the greatest minds suffered from this condition. Albert Einstein always thought himself to be a fraud and described himself as an ‘involuntary swindler’. After writing 11 books and winning several awards, Maya Angelou still had doubts and once said: "I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out". Simply put, Impostor Syndrome makes itself known among the successful.

Impostor Syndrome almost always comes with painful perfectionism. For some people perfectionism is a good trait, but for those suffering from Impostor Syndrome, it can limit their abilities. Impostor Syndrome will make you think that at any moment, you’ll be discovered, and you might either work too hard to make every little thing perfect and burn yourself out, or simply avoid the task completely.

Some people might think that Impostor Syndrome can be a good thing. It might push you to do your best and achieve perfection in your work. However, it will also decrease your productivity over time, prevent you from sharing your great ideas, or even stop you from applying for jobs that could accelerate your career.

Recognising it

Once you’re aware of the phenomenon and that many people struggle with, you’ll be more equipped to fight it.

In some cases, it’s not just ourselves struggling, but someone who works beside us. By recognising this, you can help to alleviate their suffering.

There are different things to watch out for when it comes to Impostor Syndrome in your colleagues. Observe their attitude towards the jobs they’re doing and how they receive praise for their achievements.

Explore these questions, for yourself or your colleagues:

  • Do they attribute their achievements or success to outside factors or luck?
  • Are they afraid that they’ll be found out as a fraud?
  • Do they feel like if they can do it, anybody can?

Ticking any boxes? It looks like it might be Impostor Syndrome rearing its ugly head. Time to fight back.

How to help yourself or a teammate with Impostor Syndrome

When I joined Revolut, I felt like I didn’t belong here. Revolut hires a lot of talented professionals and it’s easy to feel like you’re a fraud among them. But one thing that helped me out is the quarterly reviews that we have in Revolut. It was very helpful for me to hear that I was meeting and even exceeding expectations, despite what my Impostor Syndrome told me. At first, it can be hard to believe that what they say is true and that your work actually matters. However, with every review, you start to understand that it’s in your manager's best interests to help you succeed, which means there's no point in lying.

So, time to confront the brain gremlins, for yourself or a colleague.

Here are some good steps that might be helpful:

  • The first and main step is to acknowledge all of those destructive thoughts
  • Help others with Impostor Syndrome. If you start helping others, you may start to see confidence in your own abilities
  • Try to ask for feedback or provide feedback to others. Acknowledge your peers and how competent they are without being asked to do so. Praise the people you work with for a job well done, and provide constructive criticism to help them grow
  • Talk freely about how you’re feeling. By talking about it, you weaken the effect it has on you
  • And always remember that something that might appear obvious to you could be a mind-blowing realisation to others!

We’re all in this together

I know how it feels and I also know that it can get better. You can achieve a lot if you start believing in yourself.

Don't let Impostor Syndrome cripple you. Try to be grateful to yourself for everything you've already accomplished in your life. Try to help other people in their struggle and remember: you’re talented, you’re capable, and you belong!

At Revolut we know that wellbeing is not a perk. It’s a must. Listen to an amazing podcast with Hannah Francis - our head of engagement at Revolut - created by Olivia to learn more on our wellbeing initiatives.  Why not to also check out our job opportunities here?