Feel Like an Imposter?
We all go through life sometimes wondering if we are doing good enough at our jobs, if we really earned that compliment, and hope we can handle it. The ability to check-in and assess our performance is a healthy and normal part of being a human. It’s an innate survival technique that allows us to understand our shortcoming and make adjustments to our performance and assess if we need to grow in certain areas. But, do you ever feel like you are constantly analyzing yourself and feel like an imposter? Worried that ‘eventually they’ll catch on and I’ll be doomed.’
Imposter Syndrome is technically not a diagnosable mental health illness, though it is completely valid. It can be a symptom of something else like an anxiety disorder, trauma, and low self-esteem related to depression. As these problems develop, you might feel more like an imposter. For some, they might have felt this way their entire life. I’m here to shed some light on this issue.
Here Are Some Causes of Imposter Syndrome:
Making mistakes takes courage
Imposter Syndrome and Inferiority Complex can go hand-in-hand. Let’s take a look back in your history to understand where it all started. Children need to be encouraged and empowered to take risks. Making mistakes has an important impact on our development and understanding of our ability to handle difficult situations. As we tap into courage, we learn to overcome our fear and believe in our abilities. Even if this resulted in a mistake, it’s okay. Mistakes are part of the what leads us to tap into our courage. We need praise for our courage to take that risk sends the message to our unconscious survival brain that it’s safe enough to try things, and that you won’t be shamed for it, so that you continue to take chances in life.
Note that I mentioned the need for praise – your parents may not have provided this. They may have discouraged you from taking risks like climbing that tall tree to avoid falling, or caused you to suppress the part of you that is outspoken and likes to question things. They might have criticized you for making a B and expected nothing less than ideal. This might’ve resulted in feeling inferior to your peers and colleagues, and not trusting your judgement. You might have learned to doubt yourself so much that you catch yourself running things by people first before making a decision, or seeking approval even though you don’t really need to. Sound familiar? You might take it deeply personally if you are dumped by your romantic partner, thinking “I wasn’t good enough.” You might have been reinforced for people-pleasing and weren’t allowed to say “no.” Now, you might experience paralysis by analysis, not trusting yourself or the outcome.
Unrealistic standards from society
Our culture likes to dictate how we should dress, what size our bodies should be, how to speak, and what to believe. This comes from all direction including social media, advertisements, and the authority figures in your life. We internalize these messages even if we don’t want to because we’re human and ultimately need connection and to feel we belong somewhere. Being different can make you obsessively compare yourself to other people. If you are different racially, you may not have seen many people that look like you in positions of power. What is the message that comes from this? That people that are different like you don’t have what it takes?
Not true. And it isn’t so all-or-nothing
Sometimes it isn’t as easy as just taking a risk. And sometimes you might need additional work to get to where you want to be in life like developing your skills, working on your confidence, and working through the discomfort of speaking up. You are the most valuable investment you will ever make. As an Atlanta therapist, I offer online therapy across GA to help hush those little nagging voices that cause you to doubt yourself, helping you reframe those unwanted negative beliefs, and to build your confidence. Want to work on your self-development and stop feeling like an imposter? Give me a shout, I’m here.
Zulaikha Straight, MA, LPC, NCC, NCIAC, NCLC
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