Imposter syndrome might sound like a term created for the social media age, but it was first recognised by psychologists in the 1970s and it’s more relevant in lockdown than ever before.
We’ve become used to working from home over the past year as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic After dutifully commuting to our offices five days a week, a huge proportion of the UK’s professional workers have swapped in-person team meetings for Zoom sessions and digital collaboration tools.
Many of us have learned to rely on new technologies, to organise ourselves and our teams remotely and to get to grips with the realities of working from a home ‘office’ (even if that ‘office’ is just a table in the box room!)
Remote working has numerous benefits. It allows us to better manage our work-life balance. It enables us to cut out the time, cost and stress of commuting, and it has been shown to increase productivity in many situations, especially for committed high-flyers who are working hard to progress their careers.
However, it also has a significant downside in that many remote workers are reporting higher feelings of imposter syndrome, especially amongst successful women who are already performing extremely well in their professional lives.
Imposter syndrome occurs when an individual feels as though their accomplishments are actually down to luck rather than hard work and talent. These high achievers struggle to internalise success or recognition, feel unworthy and constantly worry that they will be unmasked as ‘frauds’.
As a career coach, I’m seeing just how much remote working can compound these issues. Firstly, when we are working from home we are naturally isolated. Zoom simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to the social interaction that we enjoy when we are together.
Crucially, at the moment, the benefits that come from being physically present with colleagues, clients and other stakeholders, are benefits that we simply can’t enjoy. And when we work at home on our own, without seeing other people and hearing them recognise and appreciate our achievements, it’s all too easy to start to question ourselves.
There we are, perhaps not looking as professional or put-together as we might usually, possibly Zooming at an angle where our colleagues can’t see piles of laundry or marauding children. The doubt starts to build. How can we really be successful, high-achieving and competent individuals who are worthy of success and recognition when we are typing away furiously in our pyjamas after a day of trying to juggle too many things and feeling the stress of Covid-19 life?
The first step to take in tackling this lockdown imposter syndrome is to recognise that it is affecting a huge number of people to some degree – men and women, at all ages and in all stages of their careers, including many extremely successful people at the top of their field. The stresses and pressures that we are dealing with, to juggling work, families, homeschooling and the national lockdown as a whole, are hugely difficult.
This current period isn’t ‘business as usual’ by any means and the stresses that we might usually feel are only being magnified and compounded. So give yourself a break. Breathe. Make that hot drink. Get out for a walk. These basic self-care methods are vital to calming negative self-talk.
Call up a trusted friend, colleague or your friendly career coach. Rationalise your concerns. Look at some of the tools we offer to help tackle imposter syndrome and remind yourself that this extremely recognisable, shared state of affairs can not only be overcome but it can be used to become an even stronger and more empathetic leader.
We need each other more than ever at this time, in work as well as our home lives. And remember, this will pass – and with the right help and strategies, you CAN overcome imposter syndrome and recognise your infinite value.