Navigating Imposter Syndrome for Newcomers to Canada: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt at Work

Walking into your office, your mind may flood with thoughts like “I got lucky,” “This is not for me,” “I don’t belong here,” or “These people are so much more competent than I am.”

Don’t worry though – everyone you see around you probably had the same thoughts at one point or another. Some may even deal with these feelings in the present, despite knowing the ins and outs of their role. Team members in more senior positions are more likely than average to experience it!

If all this sounds familiar to you, you may be experiencing imposter syndrome. It’s quite common in school, your personal life, and (especially) your career. The feeling of unworthiness or voice in your mind telling you that you are not good enough to make progress – all this can be very damaging to your mental health and cause a great deal of unnecessary stress.

Many things can cause imposter syndrome, ranging from your childhood experiences to traumas, to a perfectionist attitude. No matter the reason, it is more common than one might think.


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Understanding Imposter Syndrome

 Although you may experience it differently than your co-workers or peers, some common characteristics of this syndrome are as follows:

  • Decreased self-confidence
  • Isolating yourself from team members
  • Feeling like you are going to be “exposed” for being a “fraud”
  • Perfectionism
  • Overworking and eventually burning out
  • Low self-esteem
  • Asserting that your success can be traced to external, rather than internal, factors
  • Setting standards that are impossible to meet
  • Finding it hard to accept praise
  • Not showing confidence because you think people will mistake it for obnoxiousness
  • Turning down opportunities for growth or visibility at work

How to Combat Imposter Syndrome

Now that we know what imposter syndrome is, we can delve into how it can be combatted.

  1. Remember — Perfectionism is Not a Quality
    We grow up thinking that being a perfectionist is a major asset – and why shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we seek the highest level of quality in what we produce? Is that not what we are paid for? All these are valid questions, but there’s a major difference between seeking high quality and seeking perfection – while the former is achievable, the latter is not. People with imposter syndrome don’t realize that the perfection they seek is an abstract concept that exists only in their mind.
  2. Be Kinder to Yourself
    You need to shut out the part of your brain that tells you that you are not good enough and cultivate the part that tells you that all your success and achievements are well-deserved. Because guess what – they are. You are where you are because you worked for it. You gathered the right education. You worked the right jobs. You performed well on multiple stages of the hiring process (which, by the way, is full of competent applicants) and you got the job. Simple as that. If you were indeed a fraud, the hiring managers would have seen right through you.
  3. It is Time to Track Your Successes!
    Do you think you are the reason for your achievements, or do you believe that an external force is helping you? Maybe luck? Maybe people’s distorted perception of your intrinsic worth? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to change the way you perceive your successes. How? By creating a document where you quite literally track them. From little to big. From big to little. Anything you do that can be counted as a win, document it. This is going to lead to a collection of successes in just a short amount of time, which you can refer to whenever you want.
  4. Talk to Someone About It
    Maybe it is also time to get another person’s perspective on the matter, someone with a more neutral stance on how you are performing. A manager, a mentor, a colleague. Be honest with them about your feelings, and feel free to ask them which metrics you will be assessed on. Hearing something from them may allow you to not only have a more accurate perception of your performance but also equip you with the skills needed to fight off imposter syndrome.
  5. Do Not Decline Every Opportunity That Comes Your Way
    When we already doubt our abilities, being offered more responsibility may be met by immediate resistance. This mindset is what kills innovation and growth. Saying no to an opportunity is like being handed the next rung of a ladder and denying it because we don’t know what lies at the top. The problem here is that going down is not an option, and no one wants to be stuck in one place forever. The only thing left to do is take the next rung and move ahead!


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