Blog post,  Communications professional,  Professional development

Managing imposter syndrome and embracing imperfection

Do you ever feel like you’re just one step away from being exposed as a fraud or that those around you think you’re so much better than you actually are? Even when you know you’ve worked hard to get where you are? I do. And let’s be real, admitting it feels like breaking an unspoken rule in the world of professionalism. But I don’t want to be embarrassed to say it. In fact, I’m going to embrace it. Because if there is one value we hold true at Elm, it’s honesty. So, let’s talk about imposter syndrome. It’s been a shadow on my post-graduation journey, and it’s time to shine a light on it.

What is imposter syndrome?

It was a term that I saw thrown around on social media a lot last year as I was in the midst of finishing university. I didn’t look too much into it at the time, but this post-graduation era has definitely piqued my interest in it.

If you don’t know, imposter syndrome is the struggle an individual experiences to internalise success and, as a result, constantly experiences feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy.

When the term was coined in the late 1970s by psychologists, they outlined three key characteristics that one might experience when dealing with imposter syndrome. They are:

  1. Thinking that people have an exaggerated view of your abilities
  2. The fear of being exposed as a fraud
  3. The continuous tendency to downplay your achievements

Imposter syndrome became particularly prominent for me when I left university and started full-time work. Research shows that recent graduates are among the groups most susceptible to experiencing imposter syndrome. Suddenly, we are thrust into the world of full-time work, and we have to put everything we’ve learnt into practice. It’s overwhelming, and there are a lot of new things to learn – not just in your new workplace but also trying to figure out how to create a work-life balance. It’s a ripe environment to start feeling like you’re totally incompetent and unsure of how you can possibly handle it all.

Despite these persistent thoughts, it is something I have been putting to the back of my mind, figuring it would eventually go away. Instead, I think it has started to slowly chip away at my confidence. My research into imposter syndrome has taught me a lot, but mostly, it has highlighted how important it is to manage it accordingly before it becomes detrimental to your performance and mental health.

I don’t have all the answers, but here is how I am managing my imposter syndrome – it is a mix of the many research-backed strategies, things I have found work for me and the advice I have received from the many experienced professionals around me.

Reminder: perfect does not exist

This is the hardest pill to swallow for a perfectionist. So if you’re like me, this one might take a while to sink in, but it is really important. You are new at this. You literally cannot be perfect on your first go (or even on your second or third). It is so important to try to embrace the learning curve that is post-graduation. You need to view it as an opportunity to experiment and try different things without the pressure of having to be the best or most experienced person in the room.

The reality is, though, that no matter how many years of experience you have, there will always be someone who likes to point out a mistake or show you where you’ve done something wrong. So there will always be room to grow. Wrangling the perfectionism mindset now is going to save you so much mental energy in the future.

Celebrate your wins

I don’t think I realised how important this is until now. When you start working full-time, sometimes the days and weeks blend together. All those little wins get lost in the mundanity of everyday life. Document them! Have a folder or a victory log that you can add your wins too (big and small!). When those imposter-like feelings start coming to the surface, dive into your victory log to remind yourself of all the awesome things you’ve achieved.

Actively celebrating your wins is also a fun and simple way to combat imposter syndrome. Take yourself to dinner or buy yourself something you’ve had on your wish list for a while. It’s just a nice way to stop, pause and honour your achievements.   


You didn’t think I would get to the end of a blog without mentioning communication, did you? But arguably, it’s a really important tool. People don’t know what they don’t know. Be open about how you’re feeling and talk to people in your workplace and life that you trust. You’ll often find that you aren’t alone and that things aren’t as bad as they seem. It also means that those around you know more about what you’re dealing with, so they can remember to communicate openly with you and reassure you in times of self-doubt.  

Regular feedback can also be a great way to set up a structured communication channel to ensure that you actually know when you need to improve and when you are doing really well!

I thought I’d also share some blogs and podcasts that I’ve found interesting and empowering while reading more about imposter syndrome:

One key thing I’ve learnt about imposter syndrome recently is that, unfortunately, it is hard to fully get rid of; it’s like that pesky cough at the end of a cold. It’ll find its way to come back up every so often. But if you recognise it and know how to best manage it, it can help ensure that it doesn’t take over your life. Take your learnings from each situation and keep building the library of management strategies. Most importantly, remember that you aren’t an imposter; you’re actually pretty amazing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *