My imposter syndrome peaked in grad school and in retrospect, a couple aspects of the environment contributed to it: endless focus on excellence/exceptionalism, poorly/vaguely defined job responsibilities, and lack of feedback. Also a bit of snooty one-dimensionalism: if you can’t make groundbreaking discoveries what are you even good for?
Going into an industry job, I realized how much of this is a lie. First, exceptionalism is, well, exceptional. Oddly enough, so is simple competence and congeniality. 50% of being a good worker at any job is responsiveness, communication, attitude, humility, adaptability. Second, this workplace has a much better culture of feedback and appreciation, both formally and “thanks for getting X done, this is great.” Third, I was allowed to be new again and know nothing and mess up. And as I did, I saw my colleagues say “I don’t know, let me learn, let me find out.” That showed me it’s ok to have more to learn for the rest of my career. We aren’t perfect and we cant do everything. Finally, and this was the hardest part…I had to believe it. That it was ok to not be The Very Best ™ , that you also need some people that are Pretty Damn Good and also nice. That my manager was happy with me and my work. That I could learn as I go.
I’m not “cured,” I still have relapses, particularly when a coworker does something cool. But I can give myself credit for what I do accomplish and I believe the positive feedback, and that is progress.
PS one trick for believing positive feedback, to me, is asking for one good thing and one to improve on. It offsets the “oh they are just being nice” thought process which undermines my belief if they just say good things.