Ever feel like one day someone is going to walk in your office and fire you because they realized you’re horrible at your job? Do you wonder if people are going to realize you’re no good at being a mom? Do you sometimes think your friends only keep you around for one thing, but if you can’t regularly be that thing they’ll ditch you because you’re not cool enough or fun enough?
Imposter syndrome comes up all the time in my atlanta therapist office. Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate. Although women tend to seem to struggle with it more than men, both sexes experience it. Feeling like you’re just faking it is common, and many people get so wrapped up in this feeling that they live in a constant state of anxiety.
Why do so many people struggle with imposter syndrome? I believe part of it has to do with unhealthy comparison which I wrote about here. Another aspect of dealing with feeling like a fake is negative self-talk.
We do it all the time. We mess up and we talk down to ourselves. “That was stupid…I can’t believe I screwed up again…I’m horrible…why can’t I do better…” What’s interesting about this is we probably wouldn’t be so harsh to our children or our friends when they make real mistakes. We are more kind with our words to them than we are to ourselves. Why is that? Self-love is important. While most of us would say we love ourselves, if you monitored our self-talk you might disagree.
Another aspect of experiencing imposter syndrome is irrational core beliefs. This Atlanta therapist wrote about negative beliefs here. In a nutshell, we hold onto belief systems based on experiences in life. Some of our beliefs are healthy and helpful, and some are irrational and unhealthy/unhelpful. For example, if I believe everyone should like and approve of me I will always be disappointed when I find there is someone that doesn’t like me. But, not everyone in life is going to like me. That’s a fact.
So, how do I combat imposter syndrome? As an Atlanta therapist, I teach my clients to practice positive and healthy self-talk. Give yourself grace when you make a mistake. Instead of judging or labeling yourself you can make a conscious effort to think about ways you would like to improve. So, instead of thinking “That was stupid”, think “I’m going to work on being careful when I do this activity so that I can do it better.” Or, instead of believing “They don’t like me. I’m never going to get that promotion.” Think “I’m working on getting that promotion. I know I performed well last quarter, and I’m going to continue pushing so people see my growth.”
The key with changing your thinking and belief systems is that you have to replace with realistic thoughts. So, if I felt like a failure because I made a mistake at work and I thought “I’m perfect, I never make mistakes.” In my heart I would not believe that. It’s just not true. Everyone makes mistakes. I have to replace the thought with something I believe.
So, if you feel like you’re a fake, an imposter, just think about it. If you were an imposter, most likely you wouldn’t be in that role. And, other people are in that role that are just as imperfect as you. And, why not release the fear of losing that role? What would it look like if you decided “I am who I am. I will be in this role as long as I am. I will do my best in this role.” If you released the fear of being caught… If you released the fear of making a mistake…would that change anything? It might change your anxiety levels. It may improve your performance in the role. It might not change anything. It might be worth a shot.