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How You Can Beat Impostor Syndrome for a More Joyful Career


Chances are, you have Impostor Syndrome. 

Almost everyone does — studies show that something like 82% of us do. 

The weird thing about Impostor Syndrome is that even though almost everyone has it, each of us is certain nobody else is saddled with those feelings.

Tell me you haven’t had thoughts like this: Everyone else knows exactly what they’re doing. They’re confident and relaxed. I’m just faking it, and sooner or later I’ll be caught!

What about those few who don’t have Impostor Syndrome? That’s mainly actual impostors — people who are faking it, but happily ignorant because of low self-awareness. We all know a few of them. I’m not talking to them today. They wouldn’t listen anyway.

If you’re haunted by a sense that you’re faking it, getting by with dumb luck, about to be discovered as a fraud in a world where everyone else is the “real thing” … congratulations!  You’re normal.

The odd thing is, most other people are looking at you and thinking you are the real thing — happy, confident, and on top of it — and they’re an impostor.

So, Impostor Syndrome is normal. But it can still hurt you, especially at work. Do any of these look familiar?

  • You overwork. You feel you must hide your “inadequacies.”
  • You have trouble accepting praise you fully deserve.
  • You don’t apply for better jobs you might qualify for because you don’t believe you can.
  • You fail to seek pay raises because you feel you aren’t qualified.
  • You struggle to work in teams because you’re afraid you’ll let them down.
  • You don’t take care of yourself.

For some, it can be even more serious, leading to self-sabotage coping strategies, such as extreme procrastination or even substance abuse.

How to control Impostor Syndrome

Admit it. It’s okay! Say it out loud to yourself: I have Impostor Syndrome. I’m not an impostor. This alone can rob it of its power over you. 

Talk about it. Find a friend, a colleague, or a mentor you can talk to. You’ll quickly see how common Impostor Syndrome is — and what other people do to deal with it. If it’s consistently getting you down, seek professional help. It can really help.

Normalize your feelings. Remind yourself that everyone faces these feelings, especially when times are hard or when you’re facing new challenges.

Track your success. You are probably more successful than you feel you are. Write down your victories — big and small — in a journal. Review your journal to help overcome that haunting sense that you aren’t doing enough things right.

Reframe your thinking. Especially in new situations where you may especially lack confidence, instead of thinking, This is really difficult. I might fail at it … instead focus on how much you are going to learn and grow — and that even failure leads to growth and learning.

Take care of yourself. Rest. Relax. Take time off. Do things you enjoy. Those things improve your energy and confidence.

Join a community. Find a like-minded group of people who do things similar to what you do. It’ll take you about 10 minutes to realize we’re all in the same boat!

One really great community you can join: The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. You’ll meet cool people around the world who are so much like you — it’ll be like the best class reunion you can imagine — all people you like to connect with. You’ll also get practical support that will help you go to new places in your fundraising career. Join the waiting list now and you’ll be the first to hear when the doors open again!

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  • Jeff Brooks

    Jeff Brooks is a Fundraisingologist at Moceanic. He has more than 30 years of experience in fundraising, and has worked as a writer and creative director on behalf of top nonprofits around the world, including CARE, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Feeding America, and many others.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Barbara Cecil
    August 3, 2021 9:29 am

    Great article Jeff with some excellent practical advice! My first year as a director, I had a little voice in my head that kept saying, “I don’t know what to do! I don’t know what to do!” But with some reflection, I realized that wasn’t the truth. I knew exactly what to do. It may be something I haven’t done before. It may be something where I am not sure of all the steps to complete the project. In those cases, I should ask for advice from a more experienced colleague. It may be that I know what to do but I am not sure it will work. In that case, it’s time to put on a brave face and try. None of those things is the same thing as having actually no foggy idea of what to do. It can really help to reframe your thinking!

  • Kathryn Adamo
    August 10, 2021 2:01 am

    Wow what a great message!! Feeling like a fake goes hand in hand with not feeling too useful or feeling like a failure because the dollars aren’t very abundant during the summer.
    Fundraising, esp. at dryer times of the year, can sure feel like an intense grind. Sort of like climbing a mountain where there is no top to reach and feel accomplishment. Thank you for this message enabling fundraisers in small shops know they aren’t alone.


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