Do You Think That You Have Imposter Syndrome?: and what to do about it

Do I belong here? Who am I to be doing this sort of work? I feel like a fraud, though I’m not doing anything wrong, but sometimes this feels wrong.

Dealing with imposter syndrome can be confusing. Someone who is feeling like an imposter may have these thoughts and emotions, one side telling you that you’re a fraud and the other working to rationalize the situation.

Note: Imposter syndrome is not an official psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual (DSM-5).

Who can be affected?

It’s common to have these thoughts of feeling like a fraud in an academic or work setting. Many people, both women and men, including experts in their field, will experience it. People in the helping and healing fields, like mental health professionals, also go through this. They may think something along the lines of, why do people come to ME for support with their issues?

Graduate students may experience this imposter sensation because they are at an in-between phase of professional development. They tend to feel unprepared and don’t fully acknowledge their strengths as they begin their career.

Why does this happen?

People will feel like they’re lacking a certain skill to get the job done. Realistically, people who are working in a constantly evolving field are sharpening their skills and learning new ones quite frequently to keep up with new technologies and research findings. There is an infinite amount of information to learn and an equal amount of skillful work to be done.

Remember, nobody is perfect and mistakes will be made, especially when someone is stepping into a new career. Not only should people acknowledge that their skills need dialed in, people need to also acknowledge their strengths.

The people who don’t acknowledge their capabilities and efforts tend to attribute their accomplishments to external causes, like luck, good timing, or effort that they can’t regularly expend.

If you are having difficulty pinpointing your strengths

If someone is struggling to recognize their strengths, a good way to figure out what those are is to schedule some time with a pen and paper and reflect on times that you handled something well.

  • What was the problem?
  • How did you handle it?
  • What were your strengths?
  • How can you use those strengths now?

Another way of finding strengths is to list achievements.

  • What short-term goals have you accomplished? These can be as simple as time management or maintaining a weekly schedule.
  • What long-term goals have you accomplished?
  • What were your strengths?
  • How can you use those now?

Journaling about talent that you use in school or on the job may be useful.

If someone is still having difficulty thinking of their strengths, they can ask someone whom they are close to, who knows them well, and are comfortable asking that person to list three things that they are good at. Next, the person should take those three things and journal about times they used those characteristics, and lastly, how to apply them in the present. Everyone has things they’re good at.

Recognizing expertise is important. People tend to be overly self-critical, on a level that is self-defeating or unhelpful. Over time, this behavior is destructive and likely smothering out productivity. If someone is working in Information Technology (IT) and they recognize a weakness in a skill, instead of playing into unhelpful thoughts, remembering what what one does well and playing to their strengths will combat this. It’s important to strengthen the weaker skill, but the person also must recall that they are good at. If the IT worker has strong communication and group work skills, then simply highlighting those should help. One can’t always be good at everything. Then, they can communicate to their team where they need assistance in getting the job done.

Pressure to achieve

Pressure to achieve comes from many places. People experience pressure to perform at a higher level from their peers, colleagues, managers, themselves, and messages from society (Think about the American culture, where it is practically a badge of honor to be overworked. This is an unhealthy habit.). Society’s message is that we must always achieve.

Research shows that certain people are more susceptible to fraudulent feelings stemming from their family’s beliefs on achievement and how parents praised or criticized their child.

Perfectionism

One thing to be mindful of when going through imposter syndrome is perfectionism. People will attempt to do everything perfectly and might have an “all-or-nothing” mindset. Being aware and weary of perfectionism is important because it can lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. “All-or-nothing” thinking is a cognitive distortion and should be reframed (Refer to the cognitive reframing article on how to reframe unhelpful thoughts into helpful ones).

Change your thinking by checking your irrational thoughts and practice reframing them. Read about cognitive reframing.

Interesting info and more answers to burning questions

Feel Like a Fraud?

Imposter Syndrome

A Psychologist Explains How to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

10 Steps You Can Use to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

TED Videos

Spinning Your Wheels: ask for help when you’re stuck

We don’t always like to ask for help, a lot of times we’ll wait until we’re feeling completely overwhelmed by emotions and stress. While there are multiple reasons that we might behave this way, such as fear of failure or rejection, for example… however, this article isn’t about that. Let’s get right to the point. Ask for help when you know you’re stuck vs spinning your wheels and wearing down. Find out why and how.

The video below has more details, I hope you like it, literally!

Who can help?

There are many support, helping, and healing professionals out there: medical professionals; birthing coaches; personal trainers; dietitians; chiropractors; physical therapists; occupational therapists; mental health professionals; running coaches; life coaches; business coaches; financial planners; attorneys…

Turn to your network, coworkers, family, and friends, and begin to just look and see who might be able to help or who knows someone who can help. When we need a helping hand with something, we’re in a vulnerable place and sometimes asking for a hand might involve sensitive information. As you look for someone to help, be aware of confidentiality, protect your privacy.

Possible signs of needing assistance

There is a wide range of signs and symptoms that point in the direction that you should ask for help. Depending on your situation, you may experience tension in your body, stress build up, upsetting emotions arise, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, distress tolerance lowers, self-defeating thoughts, mental breakdowns… this can quickly start sounding like a commercial reciting the side effects of a meditation.

Go with your gut instinct and ask for help when you realize that you need it. Avoid the side effects.

Why you should ask for a hand

Don’t put off seeking help because sometimes symptoms will worsen. In some cases, the longer we spin our wheels, the further we sink down in the mud, the harder it is to get back out. The mud flies everywhere and then, blankets things around you. The longer we are stuck and sinking down, the greater the risk of other areas of our lives have at becoming harmed.

Keep in mind, this is incredibly important with mental health, that it is easier to be treated the sooner you seek help from a mental health professional. The sooner you reach out, the sooner you can feel relief.

Lower distress tolerance was mentioned above as a sign that you may need to reach out for help, but how do you know how to measure distress? How much distress is too much? Visit this little article and resource on distress tolerance and download the scale to increase awareness.

Even if you haven’t felt stuck for long, still consider reaching out. It’s better to ask a question, to have a second opinion or additional set of eyes on something than going alone.

Possible benefits of a helping hand, a second opinion, and another set of eyes

By taking action, we create the opportunity to grow personally and develop professionally. There is much to learn from other people. They have different opinions, experiences, and expertise.

Overcome the risks you feel that are keeping you down by taking a chance [By the way, sometimes the risks aren’t actually there, but our minds tell us they are. For example, making a mountain out of a mole hill. Our thoughts are catastrophizing. This is a part of cognitive distortions.] The benefits of getting help typically greatly outweigh the potential risks.

Some potential benefits are accelerating towards achieving goals, learning something new, becoming more flexible seeing from another person’s perspective, lessening the chance of getting stuck again with that same thing, and making a connection with someone you might not have otherwise.

You’ll feel relieved after reaching out. Opportunity awaits! Achieving goals are on the other side seeking help. You deserve help, you deserve to reach your goals! You’ve worked hard to get to where you are now, everyone gets stuck at some point, acknowledge your hard work and achievements. Asking for help isn’t admitting defeat, asking for help is a strength.

Thanks for watching this video, I hope that it provided valuable insight and a nudge in the direction towards asking for help if you need it.

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