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How do I shut down my Imposter Syndrome in the workplace? by Kimberly Castelin

Kimberly Castelin
Kimberly Castelin

Hi, I’m Kimberly Castelin, PhD. I’m an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) Fellow in the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As I read posts on Imposter Syndrome by Sara Vaca, Maira Rosas-Lee, and John LaVelle, I empathized with these authors. My Imposter Syndrome intensified when I started this new position earlier this year. I want to share how I’ve quieted negative thoughts to be more confident in my workplace. If you are like 70% of professionals who experience Imposter Syndrome, you can benefit from these techniques too!

  1. Identify and Own Your Imposter Syndrome

My Imposter Syndrome persists despite my accomplishments. I earned a PhD, complete evaluations of complex projects, deliver conference presentations, and launched an online evaluation course, successfully. When I was accepted into the ORISE Fellowship Program, I confided to my close friend that I feared my new mentor would discover that I wasn’t ‘good enough’ to be an evaluator in this organization.

Her response?

“You need to learn how to shut up that hater in your head!”.

2. Have Courage to Be Vulnerable and Seek Resources

Knowing that Imposter Syndrome is real gave me courage to approach my new mentor withtruth and vulnerability.My mentor and I adapted tried and true strategies when the ‘hater in my head’ distracts me. The work to quiet my hater is already paying dividends! I’m better rested, less anxious, and more comfortable asking for help when I need it.

3. Reframe Fear-based Responses in the Workplace

For me, reframing fear-based responses has been the most useful strategy. When ‘the hater’ shows up as a fear-based response to a situation, I reframe the situation to focus on positive perspectives. For example, “Others will think I am dumb because this is imperfect” becomes “I get to learn from others’ input and improve the end product”. As a result of this reframe, I seek input from colleagues earlier. The act of reframing experiences helped me to understand and internalize that judgements of my work are not judgements of my worth.

Here are other reactions, responses, and habits that I continue to practice:

Table explaining when the hater shouts loudly what do do to shut it down.

***Links from table above:

Hot Tips : Inthis article, Melody Wilding identifies five types of Imposter Syndrome and strategies to conquer each one.

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8 thoughts on “How do I shut down my Imposter Syndrome in the workplace? by Kimberly Castelin”

  1. Hi Kimberly,
    Thank you very much for sharing this piece. With the surge of remote working due to COVID, I know of quite a few people who are experiencing intense episodes of Imposter Syndrome. I believe a large contributor is how disconnected we feel from our colleagues and workplaces when we work from home, and when we feel the weight of the global situation, it is very easy to feel like we are the only ones bearing it. To suffer from Imposter Syndrome is plenty, but to do so in isolation is substantially worse.
    In managing my team, I am even more conscious of letting them know when they have done a great job as we work remotely. I have also tried to be more flexible in trying to support my colleagues in the ways that they would like to be supported. Students make up a large portion of my team, and they have been hit particularly hard with both working and learning remotely. In addition to letting them know when they are doing good work, I also let them know that it’s okay to not be okay and that they can take time to themselves when they need it. I am happy to say that some have taken me up on my offer.
    To read that 70% of professionals experience Imposter Syndrome is both sobering and reassuring. I hope that others read the ideas that you have shared and can take a moment to take care of themselves and to reflect upon what makes them an experienced professional. When mistakes arise, I like to remind myself that being bad at something is the first step towards being good at something. I am fortunate to work in an organization that does not value me on the basis of my mistakes, and I try to pay it forward by fostering an environment of learning; not only for students, but for professionals as well.

    Kind regards,

    1. Hi Kyle, Thank you for sharing the approach you take as a manager to support those around you struggle with Imposter Syndrome.

  2. Hello Kimberley,
    My name is Suzanne. I am professor who has also been a nurse for 29 years. I started out as a front-line nurse and made me way up to the Senior Manager of seven units, policy and practice expert by the time I decided to teach and begin my teaching career. I read your article with a very personal lens. I have struggle with this syndrome at various times throughout my career as a nurse as I progressed through the ranks. I am hoping to utilize your steps and tips to avoid this same syndrome form plaguing me through my newfound teaching career. Your three strategies are ones I relate to and will absolutely utilize when evaluating my own stress and anxiety. I too relate to feeling not good enough, lacking the courage to reach out authentically to my leaders for assistance and vulnerable conversations, and finally I struggled with the ability to re-frame my negative thoughts into positive and supportive ones. I understand that as an evaluator, any self-doubt wound hinder your processes and as a new professor I feel that by reading your grid of self-help practices will be a step ahead for me. I am being vulnerable sharing this, but I do so in the hopes that, like you, I may help someone else with similar struggles.
    Thank you sincerely,
    Suzanne Gordon

    1. Hi Suzanne, I am sure your bravery and vulnerability will bring light to your students, too. I am sure you have a brilliant teaching career ahead of you; don’t let anyone, especially not your hater, tell you otherwise.

  3. Dear Kimberly,
    Just when I thought I was getting a grip on my own IS problem, COVID came and destroyed my business and left me in the dust with it. As I’ve been rebuilding and reinventing and questioning, IS has only gotten worse to the point I was going to just get a job at the local gas station. Thank you for this post and the resources. It tells me I need to go to work combatting IS and it certainly helps I’m not alone and that there are tons of resources to deal with it. 70% ?? Holy crap. I am definitely not alone!

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