Imposter Syndrome: Do I deserve to be Here?
A lot of the work I do as a therapist is with highly motivated, reflective, intelligent and talented people. These individuals are parents, professors, students, business leaders, writers, and high achievers. Something they often display in the beginning stages of treatment is their own blind spots when it comes to recognizing their own talents and remarkable abilities. There is a name for this and it is called imposter syndrome. This is not a diagnosable mental health condition, but it can rob us of our happiness and lead to depression, anxiety and a sense of emptiness. Imposter syndrome can best be understood as believing that one’s accomplishments are not enough or sufficient, which leads to a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fake or someone who got by because they were “lucky.” For some people, external evidence of their accolades and achievements do not register and instead is met with this idea of not being worthy of such titles and status.
We are often our own worst critic and much harder on ourselves than friends, family, and even strangers. This idea of being an imposter plagues our belief about ourselves and our own ability; it is a thief that takes away our self-esteem and confidence on things we have worked so hard to achieve. For example, this may be a business leader who is successful on all objective measures, yet still feels he or she is not doing enough to increase sales. This can also be a medical doctor, who after all those years of schooling feels like a fraud for not being able to make the correct diagnosis based off of a fifteen minute visit with a patient. It is easy to fall into a negative cognitive loop that questions our intelligence, motivation, ability, and training but perhaps the hardest thing to do is to find the silver lining when that negative loop starts to take over.
Instead of dismissing our accomplishments, come up with something you are proud of and want to share with others. Rule of thumb, if you have a hard time doing this make a rule for every negative self-statement, you have to come up with a positive one to counter it. Another exercise you can do to break free of this cycle of feeling like an imposter is to keep a box of positive reviews, feedback, and evaluations. When you are having a bad day, keep them in a place where you can access and then read them out loud.