What I think Others Know: Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome. When you feel like you’re out of place. You shouldn’t be where you are or doing your dream job after all, who let you do this? I don’t have this experience. You start to doubt all of your accomplishments or talents and eventually, you will be exposed. The nasty thing about imposter syndrome, no one really thinks you’re a fraud, except you. 

I think “I’m a Fraud”

Believe it or not, therapists go through this as well, myself included. I have had bouts of imposter syndrome, especially when learning a new technique, when I sit there thinking that “of course my colleagues will know what a fraud I am, my clients will know, and I will for sure be exposed and fired, I should just quit before it all ever happens anyways”. I want to do it perfectly. Now I know where some of this comes from for me: anxiety and those lovely negative thinking patterns. What about yours? Where does your imposter syndrome come from? We all go through it (Sorry therapists I am letting out our dirty little secret that we all feel like we have no idea what we’re doing sometimes). 

Why do we feel this sometimes? Because we’re human. Also, if you are a high/overachiever, you are more likely to suffer from this. Studies have shown that when people struggle with imposter syndrome, they have set their expectations for abilities high or consistently feel not adequate enough because they generally are smart, but consistently have the feeling of not being smart enough. 

Can I handle New Challenges?

Generally, this shows up at work, but sometimes imposter syndrome is scarier than being at work. It can show up for new parents (fun new job right). Thoughts that are easier to laugh at in the workplace, such as, “who let me do this” are not so easy to laugh at when it’s 3 am and you’re exhausted. Being a parent is hard and we’re always told no matter WHAT choice we make, it somehow is the wrong one. Those wonderful little, “what if’s” in our head tell us we’re doing it wrong, I’m a bad parent, we’re not supposed to be doing this, or I can’t do this, and the comparison to other parents doing it “better.”  You know what though? You’re not alone. And you can do this. When you make a mistake, because you will, hello parenthood, just know that it’s okay. Do your best to create a positive response to this and focus on the growth and learning of these mistakes. 

Don’t Worry. It’s not Permanent.

Imposter syndrome isn’t permanent though, people. For me when I start to feel that anxiety kick in and I feel that feeling: every other therapist must know somehow that I’m a fraud, it’s time for me to check in with someone. It’s time for me, even a fully licensed therapist, to talk to someone in supervision or consultation. I find so much value in this. I also might add some training to get me back in touch with some things I’m not feeling so strongly about.

TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS. I guarantee they have felt the same way. (Insert this for work too, or school, or sports…..talk to someone…they’ve felt the same way). Now the important part here is to talk to someone. If you are a new parent, talk to someone. Postpartum is no joke and if you are struggling with this, I can help you with this, but someone else, like your partner, like a friend, or a support group might be able to pick up on this before you can. But even outside of postpartum, all parents go through the lovely imposter syndrome.  

Please Check Your Expectations at the Door

We all have intrusive thoughts sometimes and for some of us, this leads to imposter syndrome (if you do not or have not ever had this, please call me and tell me what that’s like), but how we handle it is what is important. I have to remind myself that I, too, am not alone. We all have to check ourselves on the expectations we hold for ourselves and just be sometimes. Check your thoughts. When you have those lovely (insert hard sarcasm) negative thoughts that tell you that you can’t do this, you’re doing it wrong, etc., etc., challenge them. Change them. The more you do this, the less likely you’re going to be to have them. Challenge them and list out reasons why you are doing things right, focus on the positive. Remind yourself that it isn’t true. These are feelings, not facts. Set appropriate expectations for yourself.  If you can’t do this: Call me. That’s what I’m for and where I come in. It can feel like you must be the only one, but I promise, you aren’t, and we can work on it. 

If you want more help with imposter syndrome, give us a call! 616-929-0248

About Amanda Martin

Amanda Martin, LMSW, CAADC, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Grand Valley State University and earned a Masters in Social Work from Michigan State University. She is also EMDR Certified. She understands that therapy can be tough… Tough to start and tough to work through. She specializes in trauma, substance abuse, self-harm, women's and family issues, LGBTQ+ issues, postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, and treatment for birth trauma. She sees clients at Lifeologie Counseling Grand Rapids Ada.

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