Can a sunshine folder help cure your imposter syndrome?

Here's a gentle reminder that you're as bad at your job as you think!

21 April, 2024
Can a sunshine folder help cure your imposter syndrome?

If the thought of your boss asking “can we chat?” immediately sends you into an “omg, I’m getting fired” spiral, then you might have impostor syndrome—the feeling that you’re not worthy of success or not as capable as you really are.

Impostor syndrome sees the doubt you feel over your own abilities overshadow the real, tangible successes you have achieved in work and life. Despite all the evidence proving your fabulousness, your brain simply will not accept it. This can manifest itself in many ways in the workplace—you might avoid speaking up with ideas in a meeting, or talk yourself out of applying for a promotion. As well as being a form of self-sabotage, the stress of covering up this internalised doubt combined with the pressure to just! keep! performing! can lead to burnout. So, what can you do about it?

The first step, says Susan Doering, a career coach and author of Smart Career Moves For Smart Women, is accepting that you are experiencing impostor syndrome. The second step is building your self-confidence by reminding yourself what you are really capable of—away from your niggling inner critic. Enter: a ‘sunshine folder’.

What is a sunshine folder?

“A sunshine folder is a treasure chest of memories, full of moments you can look back on with pride,” says Dr Susan, who explains that the folder— which could be a physical scrapbook or something as simple as a Google Doc—can be made up of small or big achievements, such as nailing a presentation or landing
an important client account. “It is called a sunshine folder because you let the sun shine on those moments and you feel warm and content when you think about them,” explains Dr Susan.

What should I put in my sunshine folder?

As well as listing all of your achievements—which can go as far back as captaining your school netball team, if you wish—Dr Susan says, “It is nice to add what other people have said about these moments. Try to remember any positive comments after your big presentation, including a client’s words of appreciation or feedback from a great performance review.” Think about taking a screenshot of the Slack message from your boss congratulating you on smashing your Q1 targets, or saving the email from a client who loved working with you.

How can a sunshine folder help tackle impostor syndrome?

“By creating a sunshine folder, you are reminding yourself of the real achievements that you made happen, and you give yourself permission to feel proud of those achievements,” says Dr Susan. “Whenever those self- doubting thoughts start to bubble up, take out your sunshine folder and remind yourself of your sunshine moments.” You don’t need to wait until you are feeling down to use the folder, though. Try giving it a quick look over as you drink your coffee
in the morning for an immediate confidence boost ahead of the working day. Or try flicking through it on a Friday afternoon to end the week on a high. “When you accept these achievements—and it may take some inner struggling—you will begin to build confidence in yourself. You will be able to say, “I am the person who has achieved all of this. I earned my place at work. I am not
an impostor.”

This article originally appeared in Cosmopolitan India January-February 2024 print issue.

Lead image credits: Pexels

Also read: What’s the key to effective anger management?:

Also read: Signs that you’re a bad packer on your holidays and how to avoid them