“You are not in competition with anybody except yourself; plan to outdo your past not other people.” ~ Jaachynma N.E. Agu
It sounds so ominous – like a disease or a condition we should fear.
In reality, it is an experience we have all had at some point in our lives, and recognizing it is an opportunity for self-reflection and growth.
The concept of imposter syndrome is based on the messaging we may have received – for any number of reasons and from any number of sources – that resulted in a belief we have integrated into our own self-view that “we don’t belong or are not good enough”.
Taken a step further, this belief may result in the fear of being “found out”.
If not addressed, and instead held secret due to not wanting to be vulnerable, we may end up experiencing...
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoidance of new opportunities
- Social-emotional distancing
- Physical dysregulation
To be an imposter implies that we don’t fit in and are trying to pass disguised and fearful of discovery. It implies that we are pretending to be someone or something we are not. What if we are merely being our authentic selves on a journey of growth & discovery? Then we are not imposters. We may not yet be the version of ourselves we strive to be, but we are a more advanced version of our former selves.
When we experience being an imposter …
- Instead of hiding from it, apologizing for it, or attempting to fake-it while praying no one notices, we have the opportunity to acknowledge what we may actually be feeling – anxiety, uncertainty, fear.
- Instead of “should-ing ourselves”, we can practice grace and acknowledge that we may not know something YET, but that we know more than we did and are still learning.
- Instead of approaching our work with a “fake-it ‘til you make-it” attitude, we can ask for assistance, elicit support, and refocus our energy.
- Instead of being isolated in our feeling “not good enough”, we can recognize that while we are comparing ourselves to others and judging ourselves as falling short, that there are others out there comparing themselves to us and feeling the same, so we are not alone.
- Instead of punishing ourselves for even thinking this way, we can acknowledge that self-doubt is a part of life that can either paralyze or motivate us, and it is our choice which.
- Instead of focusing on all the ways we might fall short, we can identify affirmations of our accomplishments, strengths, and successes.
Despite our roles, we are human first, and we therefore experience the same vulnerabilities as others.
When working with someone who expresses their own sense of imposter syndrome in their life – personal or professional – we have the opportunity to provide for them what we ourselves seek:
- Validate their humanity
- Make space for them to identify their core beliefs and emotional experiences
- Empower their journey to challenge / amend the schema through which they navigate life
- Promote their agency & efficacy for success
For ourselves and our clients, let’s reframe the idea of imposter syndrome by letting go of the need to be as good as someone else and instead redirect our energy into continually being an improved version of ourselves.
Whatever job we have or role we hold, we obtained it because we earned it and we do belong!
Through open communication and collaboration, we can improve the quality of experiences for ourselves, our colleagues, and those we serve.
We each have the right to our own pedestal – build it, help others build theirs, and perch on it with confidence.
Ready to Talk?
At CHE Behavioral Services, we are committed to helping those who are struggling from stress, time management, burnout and more. We offer online talk therapy and medication management designed to help people manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Our licensed mental health professionals work with clients to create personalized treatment plans that meet their unique needs and goals.
For more information about talk therapy at CHE, please call 888-515-3834. We are ready to talk and ready to listen.
Dr. Ruth Nirenberg is CHE’s new Clinical Director - East Region. She is an empty-nester and seasoned psychologist who is grateful for the opportunity to continue having an impact on the community.
Some great resources:
Aarons-Cooke, S. M. (2023)
Erutiya, K. (2022, January 3rd) You’re Not an Imposter. You’re Actually Pretty Amazing, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2022/01/youre-not-an-imposter-youre-actually-pretty-amazing
Michelle Obama Explains Imposter Syndrome in TheStarTV.com interview (2019) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dumm_XfHkmY
Palmer, C. (2021, June 1st) How to Overcome Imposter Phenomenon, APA, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2021/06/cover-impostor-phenomenon
Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/imposter-syndrome
Repository Law University of Michigan
Rubenstein, P. (2021, March 17th) The Hidden Upside of Imposter Syndrome, BBC, https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210315-the-hidden-upside-of-imposter-syndrome
Whittaker, C. (2021) One Thing No One Told You About Imposter Syndrome, TedXTalks, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMzoyiAS878