Updated: Jan 4, 2022
Written by Clinical Resident, Andrene Higgins
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon, defined by the Caltech Counseling Center as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence”.
Interestingly, it’s often people who are hard workers, high achievers and perfectionists who are most likely to feel like frauds -- including many doctors, lawyers, academics, and celebrities. “Even Einstein once said that he thought his research got way more attention than he thought it deserved,” Dr. Albers said.
Imposter syndrome can manifest in different areas of your life: work, school, home, relationships.
At work this may look like attributing your success to luck rather than your abilities and work ethic.
At school this may look like you avoiding speaking up in class or asking questions for fear that teachers or classmates might think you are clueless.
At home this may look like struggling to make decisions for your child out of fear of ruining their life.
In relationships this may look like feeling unworthy of affection from your significant other and fear that your partner will discover that you’re not actually that great.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), imposter syndrome can lead to a drop in job performance and job satisfaction while increasing burnout. It has also been linked to anxiety and depression.
Source: NCBI, Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Susan Albers
HOW CAN I OVERCOME THIS?
Separate feelings from facts — Everything you think isn't true. This is why awareness of your feelings and thoughts is important because if left unchecked, they can lead you astray. Dr. Albers suggests "Be ready for those feelings, observe them, be mindful of them and be ready with a response: If your mind says, ‘I don’t know what I’m talking about,’ remind yourself that you know more than you think you do and are capable of learning.”
Take note of your accomplishments — This may look like putting up sticky notes of a recent praise you received at work or hanging up a card that your child or friend made for you. Having a physical reminder of some of your successes, no matter how small is a great way to pick you up on your lowest days.
“Comparison is the thief of joy”— In this social media crazed day and age, it is especially easy to compare yourself to everyone around you whether friend, associate stranger. Remember, "no one is you and that is your superpower"!
Talk to others - a friend, trusted person — Sometimes it just feels good to get things off your chest. Confiding in a friend about your feelings is a good way to release some of the stress that may result from harboring your feelings. And, you never know if said friend has a similar experience and is able to relate to you; there is comfort in relatability.
Consider therapy, talk to a therapist! — If you find that imposter syndrome is manifesting in unmanageable ways and resulting in anxiety, depression, trouble with decision-making, therapy can help you to recognize feelings and create new behaviors and responses to combat them.
Thoughts riddled with self-doubt can be paralyzing and has the ability to hold you back from your full potential. With these tips and tuning in to your feelings, you have the power to overcome feeling like a fraud.
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