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Overcoming Imposter Syndrome as a Project Manager

Imposter syndrome in project management is more common than you might think because project managers are often perfectionists. Imposter syndrome is when a professional believes they are a fraud despite being fully qualified for their profession.

Project managers are responsible for planning, executing, managing, monitoring, and closing projects according to specific parameters such as budget and deadlines. If you are a project manager who struggles with imposter syndrome, continue reading to learn about overcoming imposter syndrome in project management. 

What Is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a feeling of inadequacy in your profession despite what others may think of your abilities and achievements. Professionals who struggle with the imposter phenomenon feel like frauds even though they are successful people. They attribute their accomplishments to luck. They don’t believe the positive feedback that they receive from others, believing instead that people are just being friendly.

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Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes formed the concept of imposter syndrome in 1978. When Clance and Imes developed this concept, they believed that only high-achieving women struggled with imposter syndrome. However, psychologists have discovered that anyone can have these fraudulent feelings, not only successful women.

Is Imposter Syndrome Common in Project Management?

Imposter syndrome is not necessarily common in project management. At the time of this writing, there wasn’t much information about how frequently imposter syndrome occurs among project managers

Project managers lead and work with teams of people. They work together and share success as a group which can make individual success challenging to accept. Professionals in this role could feel undeserving because they are used to sharing success with others.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the prevalence of imposter syndrome varies from nine to 82 percent of people depending on different factors. They also noted that most professionals experience the feelings of imposter syndrome once in their life. 

How Imposter Syndrome Affects Project Managers


Project managers who struggle with imposter syndrome are often perfectionists who need all projects to be perfect. That usually means they spend more time on projects to ensure no errors are made or elements are missing or overlooked. Chasing perfection can be detrimental to projects because of limitations on time and resources, and it can cause too much stress when a project is not perfect.

Fear of Failure

Some people with imposter syndrome have a constant fear that they will fail at anything they try. This fear will cause them to avoid new challenges and stop them from completing tasks. Fear of failure can be detrimental to the project team because project managers have to lead teams of people to complete important projects.

Lack of Self-Esteem

Some project managers do not believe in their abilities because they feel like imposters. Self-doubt can affect your decision-making ability, which is vital for project management. Your team members will notice if you don’t have confidence in your skills and contributions. High self-esteem allows you to stand up for yourself and your ideas. A lack of confidence will affect your ability to assess and manage others.

What Causes Imposter Syndrome?

Personality Traits

Some personality traits can lead to someone having imposter syndrome. Perfectionist tendencies, lack of confidence, and high neuroticism are all personality traits that can lead to an individual feeling like an imposter. 

Childhood and Family Environment

People who succeed easily in school during childhood may develop imposter syndrome when faced with more complex tasks. When something is difficult, they doubt their intelligence and wonder if everyone is more intelligent. Your family environment could lead to imposter syndrome if your parents compared you to your siblings and constantly criticized mistakes. 


It is easier to compare ourselves to others with social media constantly at our fingertips. When people start comparing themselves to others, they may feel inadequate if they do not achieve and accomplish goals at the same perceived rate as others. 

New Responsibilities

New opportunities and responsibilities often cause imposter syndrome. When offered a promotion, given extra responsibilities, or starting a new job, people can feel inadequate. They believe that they do not deserve this opportunity and they won’t be able to perform as well as expected.

Depression and Anxiety

Imposter syndrome is common among people who already suffer from depression or anxiety. If you live with any of these disorders, you may already have feelings of self-doubt and a lack of confidence. These disorders can worsen your feelings of not belonging, which becomes a vicious cycle of self-doubt and low confidence levels.

What Imposter Syndrome Looks Like in the Workplace

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People can ease the feelings of imposter syndrome by acknowledging their successes and changing negative self-talk for positive self-talk.

Imposter syndrome happens when there is a lack of diversity, lack of communication, lack of mentorship, and unclear expectations. It can manifest when a work environment thrives on competition and comparison. Due to these factors, the imposter phenomenon can occur in the project management industry.

Project managers are essential parts of project teams. They are leaders that many people rely on for guidance and mentorship. Project managers need to create a communicative, positive, and diverse work environment to prevent this phenomenon from manifesting among team members. It is also essential that project managers struggling with imposter syndrome do their best to overcome it. 

Can Imposter Syndrome Be Cured?

Yes, there are ways that you can help yourself overcome imposter syndrome. Below are some steps people can follow to help beat imposter syndrome, whether they are already accomplished professionals or just starting a new career.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome in Project Management

Discuss Your Feelings

The first step to overcoming fraudulent feelings is to speak up. Many people avoid speaking about it because they feel ashamed and worry about what others will think. Discussing your feelings will bring awareness around imposter syndrome and could inspire others to share similar feelings. Knowing that other people experience imposter syndrome too will help you to begin to let go of these feelings. 

Think Positive Thoughts

Many people who struggle with imposter syndrome engage in negative self-talk. A big step to overcome these feelings is changing your inner dialogue. You can do this by paying attention to your thoughts and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. When you think, “I cannot do this task,” replace that thought with something like, “This task is my opportunity to learn something new”. 

Reward Yourself

People with imposter syndrome have a problem with acknowledging their evident success. To conquer this, you must start accepting and celebrating your accomplishments. Stop seeking external proof of your achievements and start congratulating yourself. 

Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism is not always a bad thing, but it can be. When fueled by imposter syndrome, individuals tend to fixate on projects when unnecessary. That may cause you to neglect other essential priorities. You must forgive yourself for mistakes and focus on perfecting a task only when necessary. 

Upskill Regularly

A great way to break the vicious cycle of self-doubt is to continue learning throughout your career. Take advantage of any learning opportunity sent your way. When you are more comfortable with your technical and soft skills and knowledge, your confidence will improve, and self-doubt will start to fade away. Gaining new knowledge in your field will help you overcome feelings of inadequacy. 

How a Coding Bootcamp Can Help You Get Over Imposter Syndrome

Project management bootcamps are intensive programs that allow you to gain specialized knowledge in project management. The benefits of attending a bootcamp are meeting like-minded people, having many opportunities to seek help and help others, and gaining hands-on experience through projects.

Bootcamps are shorter than degree programs and can be done online or in person. Because bootcamps are intensive, you can upskill and learn quickly. Your self-confidence will increase from the knowledge acquired during the bootcamp. Having more self-confidence will help to diminish the feelings of being under-qualified and undeserving of your position. 

Can Imposter Syndrome Be a Good Thing?

Yes, imposter syndrome can be a good thing if you harness it in the right way. It can be an excellent motivator if you strive to prove these negative thoughts wrong. However, there are also downsides to suffering from imposter syndrome.

Why Imposter Syndrome Is Good

  • It shows that you are challenging yourself. It’s normal for people to feel uneasy and inadequate when trying something new. If you feel like a fraud, you are stepping out of your comfort zone, which encourages professional and personal growth.
  • It can motivate people to upskill. Feeling like an imposter can encourage people to seek more training and education to help them feel more confident in their job. It is essential to keep learning and stay up to date with advances in your profession.
  • It can yield excellent work. Imposter syndrome leads to people being very hard on themselves. Feelings of inadequacy can motivate people to work harder on projects and deliver better work.

Why Imposter Syndrome Is Bad

  • It affects mental health. Imposter syndrome can damage your mental health because these feelings of inadequacy can create stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.
  • It causes self-doubt and low self-esteem. Imposter syndrome makes you question your capabilities and engage in negative self-talk. When people have imposter feelings, they often push away feelings of success because they don’t believe they deserve it.
  • It can restrict career growth. People who experience imposter syndrome have a constant fear of failure. This fear can lead them to push away any new opportunities or responsibilities, and they are afraid to take risks.

Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Hold You Back

Imposter syndrome is a complicated phenomenon with many harmful effects and only a few good effects. If you are a project manager who is afraid to take a promotion or who is procrastinating starting the next project, don’t let these fraudulent feelings hold you back! If you are struggling with imposter syndrome and don’t know how to move forward, use the valuable tips mentioned in this article.

Replace negative thoughts with positive and constructive ones, acknowledge your successes, and learn from your mistakes. Don’t be afraid to fail because this is the best way to learn. It is time for you to believe in yourself, celebrate your achievements, and conquer your fears into the next phase of your career journey.

Imposter Syndrome in Project Management FAQ

What are the five kinds of imposter syndrome?

The five main types of imposter syndrome are the soloist, the perfectionist, the natural genius, the expert, and the superhero, according to leading imposter syndrome expert Valerie Young Ed.D. Each type sees competence differently and focuses on different criteria. For example, a soloist will not take credit unless they did the work entirely by themselves.

Is imposter syndrome listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)?

No, imposter syndrome is not a mental disorder listed in the DSM, but psychologists and other health professionals acknowledge this phenomenon. It is a very real experience of intellectual self-doubt. 

How do I become a project manager?

To become a project manager, you need to get educated in project management, choose a specialization, decide on certification, and take the certification exams. There are many options for courses, training, and other resources to gain an education in project management.

What are three different types of project management?

Three different types of project management are Agile, Scrum, and Waterfall. These methodologies help to control the various stages of a project to ensure their quality completion.

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