A working from home desk set-up

Imposter syndrome: how to keep your self-doubt in check when you’re working from home

Posted by for Careers

Isolated from our colleagues and the reassurance of the working environment, lockdown has left many of us struggling with increased feelings of negativity and self-doubt. Here’s what you can do about it.

Although some may be returning to work as lockdown eases, many people will still be working from home for the foreseeable future. And while that’s great news for people who prefer to work remotely, not everyone will be enjoying being away from the office for such an extended period of time.

For some, the change in working conditions has affected the relationship they have with their jobs; without the atmosphere of a physical office environment and colleagues to bounce ideas off of throughout the day, working from home can leave some people feeling unmotivated and deflated.

On top of this, however, there’s an even more insidious problem growing among those of us working from home – self-doubt. 

Thanks to the isolated nature of remote working, many people are finding their inner critic growing louder as they work from home, leading to rising levels of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. Why? Because when we’re separated from our colleagues and the reassurance of an office environment, it’s easy to let feelings of negativity and self-doubt run wild.

“Imposter syndrome is defined as a persistent inability to believe that your successes are down to your own abilities,” explains Terri Burden, customer success manager at the work management app Asana. 

“This is said to have affected 90% of women in the UK in both their daily lives and within the workplace, but only 25% are actually aware of it. In a remote and distributed work environment, feelings of imposter syndrome are even more challenging to tackle.”

A woman working from home
Isolated from our colleagues, it's easy to let feelings of negativity and self-doubt run wild.

Indeed, as life coach Rebecca Lockwood tells Stylist, feelings of imposter syndrome are harder to tackle in a remote environment because it’s easier to let negative self-talk slip into our thoughts.

“Being alone for long periods of time and in confined spaces can heighten negative feelings, thoughts and this can also make someone suffering with imposter syndrome experience a stronger sense of the negative self-talk,” she says.

According to Lockwood, our imposter syndrome is worsened when we’re working from home because the subconscious negative beliefs we may hold about ourselves – that we’re not good enough, productive enough, skilled enough etc – are likely to feel worse under the current circumstances. 

So what can we do about it? We asked the experts to share their top tips for quelling our imposter syndrome and self-doubt while working from home.

How to cope with imposter syndrome and self-doubt when you’re working from home

A desk
To keep your negativity in check, start by paying attention to the messages you're telling yourself.

Catch that negativity

“Listen to yourself, and pay attention to what you are actually thinking and saying to yourself in your mind,” Lockwood says. “Sometimes we do not even realise how negative we can be towards ourselves.”

Get clear on expectations

“With the concept of distributed work here to stay, it is more important than ever to perfect communications between distanced team members,” Burden says. “For individuals suffering from imposter syndrome this is particularly challenging, as you are more likely to avoid asking for help. 

“To tackle this, you need to get clear on what you need to achieve. But this responsibility not only lies with you, but with your company. From daily to annual targets to those outlined for yourself, your team and your organisation, setting goals can provide the clarity you need and ensures you stay focused on the tasks that matter.”

Avoid comparing yourself to others

“It can often be challenging to distinguish your efforts with those within your peer group,” Burden says. “However, focusing on developing your individual strength will be most beneficial for your career progression and your mental health.

“One person’s strength is another person’s weakness, and accepting that your skill lies elsewhere means you can focus on getting ahead in an area that you excel. Nonetheless, be sure to seek opportunities outside of your comfort zone.”

Ask yourself better questions 

“As soon as you notice a negative comment from yourself, ask yourself a more empowering question,” Lockwood suggests. “Instead of saying to yourself ‘I cannot do that’ ask yourself ‘How can I do that’.”

A working from home desk
Establishing how you want to receive feedback while working from home is a great way to avoid any potential miscommunication.

Establish how you want to receive feedback

“In the absence of facial cues and non-verbal means of communication, it’s often easy to mistake a simple comment for a harsh critique,” Burden says. “To make sure you don’t misinterpret a message over email or otherwise, you need to take the initiative to ask for a quick chat via phone or video call.

“On the call, you can gain greater clarity on what the other person meant and more easily verbalise your response. This is also a great opportunity to establish ground rules. While not always possible due to time constraints, you could inform your colleague/ boss that verbal communication is preferred when receiving feedback and ask that this method is used more often with yourself. Not only does this provide you with greater ease of mind, but it also demonstrates your desire to learn and develop by the mentorship of that individual.”

Have a vision of what’s coming

“Having goals and an intention you are moving towards helps to stay positive and creates a compelling future in your mind at the conscious and subconscious level,” Lockwood explains. “This will help you to feel more positive and confident about whats to come and will help lessen any feelings of being stuck.”

To read more about handling imposter syndrome and self-doubt, including how it affects our mental health, you can check out more content here:

Sign up for the latest news and must-read features from Stylist, so you don't miss out on the conversation.

By entering my email I agree to Stylist’s Privacy Policy

Images: Getty/Unsplash

Share this article

Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and women’s issues. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time. You can find her on Twitter at @laurenjanegeall.

Recommended by Lauren Geall