There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.
– Sheryl Sandberg
Imposter syndrome, oh how I dislike you! When it shows up in our lives, it often comes with so much dread and shame too. So, what exactly is imposter syndrome? It’s not feeling good enough. It’s feeling like you’re less important than other people. It’s feeling undeserving of your success or good fortune. It’s an overall feeling of being unworthy. It’s feeling like your life is a sham and it’s just a matter of time before others discover the truth about you. There are so many different feelings that show up around imposter syndrome.
In my own life, imposter syndrome often shows up around the statement, “who am I to… (fill in the blank here).” Who am I to launch my own business? Who am I to buy a new car? Who am I to travel the world? You get the idea! How does it show up in your own life?
When imposter syndrome is present in your life, what can you do about it? I am a therapist, and you are reading a therapy blog, so I would start with first acknowledging that it’s here. Then, allow yourself time and space to feel what ever feeling are coming up for you in this space (everyone’s favorite thing, right?). Feel the sadness, the anxiety, the anger, the frustration, the grief, the overwhelm, etc. and give yourself the freedom to be able to feel them all.
Next, try to figure out where the imposter syndrome is stemming from in your life. This may include things like a fear of success, a fear of failure, issues coming up from your childhood, something triggering and hurtful that someone said to you, a negative review you received, trauma resurfacing from your past, relationship issues, financial problems, parenting stressors, etc.
Once you’ve narrowed down what’s really going on and why this is showing up in your life now, create space to process it all. Process time may look like journaling, discussing the issue in therapy, talking to a trusted friend or family member, going for a walk to think about all that’s on your mind, sitting quietly and letting the most important issues come to the surface, etc.
Finally, be aware that imposter syndrome may be showing up in one area of your life, based on a situation you’re currently in or it may be more pervasive, showing up in many areas of your life. It may show up at work, at school, at home (especially around relationship issues with your partner or kids), in your friendships, with your coworkers, etc.
For some people, imposter syndrome may be more relationally based and may actually be stemming from a lack of emotional connection with others, while for others it may be more career based and stem from a tendency to compare yourself to your coworkers. People have a tendency to compare their internal (seemingly) worst self (their belief about themselves) to another person’s external (seemingly) best self (their belief about someone else). It’s an unfair competition that can leave you feeling very negatively about yourself.
At one time or another, most of us have had imposter syndrome show up in our lives. It’s definitely not the most comfortable thing to experience (and I get it, I’ve been there too!). But, if you take some time and put some effort into figuring out why it’s showing up now and where it’s stemming from, with some process time, the hope is that you’ll come out of this feeling worthy, deserving and grateful!