Do you constantly feel inadequate at work? Do you feel underqualified for your role? Do you have a fear that you might not meet your boss’s expectations because you’re not good enough?

You’re not alone. You’re experiencing what psychologists call “imposter syndrome”.

This psychological phenomenon tends to come about when you experience a change in your working conditions. “For instance, if you’ve started a new job or have a new boss,” says Chris Mead, regional director of recruiting experts Hays Singapore.

Often, these feelings stem from negative beliefs we have about our abilities, instead of any real incompetence, says personal excellence coach Celestine Chua. For instance, you may feel that you lack the know-how to do your job. But the reality is that no one enters a job fully prepared – everyone learns along the way.

The problem? When you let these feelings sabotage your career. If you constantly feel like a fraud, identify the triggers and decide if they are truly a cause for concern. Here are solutions to four instances where that “fraud feeling” is most likely to hit.

“I’m not qualified for this job. I didn’t get the ‘right’ degree.”
Reality check: You didn’t get your job by luck, or because the hiring manager liked you. “It’s not all about paper qualifications or experience. Other ‘soft’ skills like your personality, situational and emotional quotients, also play an important role,” says Celestine.

When we focus on our limits, we often forget what we’re good at. Make a list of your strengths and put this in a prominent place such as your work cubby or on your desktop screen to motivate yourself. Says Amanda*, 28, a civil servant: “I always praise myself when something is done well. When things go wrong, I try not to blame myself but focus on what I could have done differently.”

“I’m the weakest link in my team. Everyone else is a high-flier!”
Don’t be threatened by stellar colleagues. Learn from them. Observe how they think and work, and pick their brains – how do they deal with difficult clients? Benchmark your work against theirs. Janice*, 26, a marketing officer, has this tip: “I’m the youngest and least experienced in my team, but I make up for that by reading through the files that previous employees left behind and observing my colleagues closely. I also ask them lots of questions.”

“I honestly think that my work sucks.”
Drill down and figure out what your weaknesses are. Start by getting feedback from your colleagues. For instance, if you feel that you are a terrible public speaker, ask the people who have seen you give presentations which specific areas you need to improve in. Rope in your supervisor as well; tell her that you would benefit from regular performance appraisals – this is a more professional way of seeking help, rather than admitting that you feel insecure, says Chris.

“I feel so shallow and uninformed when I go for networking sessions.”
Make it a habit to keep track of the trends and developments in your industry, whether you do this by attending conferences or reading reports, so you are constantly updated about what’s going on. And if your company offers professional development courses, sign up for as many as you can. This way, your technical skills and know-how will be up to par.

*Not their real names

Image: Ion Chiosea /
Text: Aretha Loh / Her World March 2015
Additional text: Hidayah Idris

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