You did it! You’ve abandoned the office life and set sail on an uncharted course into working remotely. Your calling is wherever you open your laptop. The local coffee shop, your cushy home office, somewhere abroad—the choice is yours, and there’s no one around to tell you how to get your day started.
Yet there’s also no one around to bounce ideas off of, discuss clients’ feedback, or share appreciation and accolades. You’re starting to doubt your decisions; are you really all you’ve thought yourself to be?
Fun fact: you are! More than that, what you’re experiencing has a name. It’s called Impostor Syndrome—the feeling that we somehow don’t deserve what we’ve earned, and that others will soon expose us as frauds. When it comes to remote work, isolation and asynchronous communication compound the tendency to believe we don’t belong where we are, or aren’t as talented as we’ve let on.
Experts on the subject have classified five distinct types of people who experience it: the perfectionist, the superhero, the natural genius, the rugged individualist, and the expert. So, before you go out high-fiving strangers for a little boost of confidence through human interaction, keep reading. We’ll break down the types of Impostor Syndrome, how you can work to eliminate it, and three quick tips to rise above it.
Beat the Hype: Know Your Type
Many a solid plan or product has been waylaid by a troubled perfectionist. These folks have trouble delegating, believing that things can only be done right when done by them. Success, when experienced, is often tainted by the thought that they could’ve done even better. Failures are ruminated upon for days and often bring one’s overall competence into question.
Tip: Get outside the comfort zone. Because planning a flawless outcome is the number one concern for the perfectionist, the best thing to do is take action. The concept of any project ever turning out ideally is unrealistic, and setting that expectation is inviting an unhealthy take on failure. Instead, focus on incremental iteration and improvement following a launch.
They work faster than a speeding bullet and can clear tall buildings by climbing a mountain of insecurities! They sacrifice everything to their work; hobbies, relationships, available free time—all in the name of “measuring up.”
Tip: Workaholics don’t thrive on the labor itself; they’re addicted to working in general. Since validation comes from outside sources, the trick is to turn that external confidence inward. As soon as they realize they can give themselves a proverbial pat on the shoulder—and not rely on approval coming from anyone else—the real confidence kicks in.
The Natural Genius
These smarty pants grew up getting all the gold stars. People often remarked on their innate ability to do just about anything they set their mind to quickly and easily. Because of this, the natural genius has learned to gauge performance based upon how long it takes them. They erroneously assume that if it requires some time to get the hang of something, they’ll never succeed at it.
Tip: As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, a new skill or task cannot be mastered in a short period of time. The first step to thwarting that nagging sensation that you’re not succeeding at something is to remind yourself that you’re a work in progress. You should focus on honing skills, and steering clear of the phrase, “I’m just not good at that.” (Or, even better, think: “I’m just not good at that yet.”)
The Rugged Individualist
These are the diehard do-it-yourselfers. Unlike the perfectionist who refuses to ask for help, rugged individualists resist teamwork because they desperately want to prove their worth by going it alone. Collaboration might as well involve waving a white flag of surrender.
Tip: No person is an island; it takes a village—there are hundreds of adages that allude to the polar opposite of the rugged individualist’s mentality. If this type resonates with you, try these tactics: avoid hitching your self-worth to the successful completion of a project; don’t frame help as a burden or favor asked; and when you do request assistance, ask for what you really need versus communicating project requirements.
This moniker is a bit misleading, and anyone suffering from this type likely shuddered upon reading it. The expert is often highly knowledgeable in their field, yet shies away from admitting it, showcasing it, or even accepting praise for it. They are constant knowledge-seekers prone to hoarding skill sets.
Tip: While no one could fault a person for wanting to better themselves, there’s no use to an endless pursuit of unshared knowledge. Instead, try just-in-time learning—the practice of acquiring skills at the moment you need them. Additionally, the expert should seek an environment for contributing their expertise. This benefits both parties: the student (colleague, friend, etc.) gains valuable insight and the expert can ease those fraudulent feelings.
If you’re experiencing Impostor Syndrome, here are three methods to start overcoming it now:
Keeping up with a social network is a great way to counteract the effects of both remote working in general and IS specifically. Without an office to go to every day, maybe you feel disconnected. Make time to get back into a support network—reconnect with trusted colleagues, find a coworking space, or Skype with an old friend for a quick reminder that you’re right where you belong.
Pat Yourself On the Back
A common thread among the five types is the inability to give yourself credit where it’s due. Try keeping a log of successes—big and small—and feel free to factor in things like circumstance, timing, and luck. You may be surprised at just how little those had to do with anything!
Coach Your Inner Critic
When self-doubt creeps in, don’t shush it entirely. Learn to distinguish anxiety and self-criticism, and repurpose them into productive feelings. If you’re not great at demonstrating self-compassion, find a sounding board to offload your insecurities. There’s a reason behind the feelings, so put a name to them, and then address them head on.
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