There I was, listening to a distraught friend.
She cried into the phone. I felt myself giving her suggestions for assistance and relieved at having a direction to turn to, she thanked me and we ended our call. I found it peculiar to be thanked for information I had merely searched for online. After all, who was I to thank? I was this fraud, simply waiting on the days in which my loved ones would find out I was not the intelligent woman they knew. I’d excelled in school because things came easily and I only graduated college because I had access to tutors. I waited on my Fortune 500 employer to fire me; didn’t they know my metrics were good luck? That I had stumbled into my life? When was my girlfriend going to realize I did not belong in her beautiful home, that I was a trailer park daughter and that’s where I belonged?
I spoke with my psychiatrist and he told me about something called imposter syndrome. First coined by psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 70s, it was an issue thought only to affect women as we transitioned from the kitchen to the boardroom. Over time, it was realized it affected both genders equally.
Defining imposter syndrome is a personal belief that you are not who others think you are, especially in relation to accomplishments. You do not feel good enough and the positive things you have achieved in your life are related to luck, not skill. You feel like a phony. Sound vaguely familiar? It affects many individuals at some point in their lives, but for those already suffering from comorbid conditions such as anxiety disorders, it sits in that same box of issues.
For example, if one has social anxiety, they will desperately want to end their social encounter for fear this person will discover they are grossly incompetent. There are many factors that can contribute to suffering from imposter syndrome. It can be triggered by a new circumstance, such a starting a new job, believing that others will see you do not belong there.
Caught in a vicious circle, we can attempt to overcompensate for our perceived shortcomings. We overwork, overstudy and overprepare so that we can rehearse everything from our voice, our words and ways to avoid being seen as “less than.”
We can get past feeling like this. We can get past imposter syndrome. To begin, we have to ask ourselves some not so comfortable questions.
“Do I need to be perfect to be liked?”
“Do I believe I deserve love just as I am?”
“What do I truly believe about myself?”
As we strive to be “perfect,” we often procrastinate and cause our own fears to come to fruition. We rehearse what we can and cannot say, we do not want to ask for help lest we be viewed as incapable, we put off doing what needs to be done for the right time… only in real life, nothing is ever the right time. We have to view those thoughts and feelings we hold about ourselves and it can be very difficult. Often therapy can be useful in working past it. Some things can help:
Help others: Believe me, you are not the only person feeling this way. Reaching out to others in similar circumstances can often help us build a confidence within ourselves that’ll be necessary to move past these types of feelings.
Speaking of feelings, talk about them: When this sort of thing is buried under the sand and we do not talk about it, it begins to feel shameful and stigmatized. Shine a light on that!
What are you good at?: Journal your achievements, talents and accomplishments. Get feedback from mentors and peers to gain a realistic look at yourself.
Ask yourself questions: Is this logical? Is this rational? Would an average person react this way?
The grass is not greener: Limit social media and focus on friends and accounts with a positive message. Focus on what makes you feel happy and joyous and unfollow and delete the rest.
Ride the wave: Oftentimes, we try and distract ourselves from our negative thoughts, only for them to come back with a venegenace later. Allow your thoughts to flow, be mindful and ride it out. Allowing ourselves to feel what we need to feel is very freeing.
I still feel like there are times I do not measure up, but everyday I get up and try and well, I’m proud of that. No fraud about it.