You’re Not a Fraud: Impostor Syndrome is Telling You That You Are

Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism’

You’re Not a Fraud: Impostor Syndrome is Telling You That You Are

Posted on: February 6th, 2021 by Kim Koehler, LCPC

“I don’t belong here.” “I am not worthy of this opportunity.”“My thoughts on this are stupid.”“I am an impostor.” These are some of the common trains of thought that come from someone experiencing Impostor Syndrome.

What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor Syndrome is a specific type of cognitive self-doubt, whether it be doubting your own intellectual abilities, talents, or worthiness of your position. Impostor Syndrome can make you feel like an outcast, or an outlier in a group. With the state of uncertainties in the current world, I’ve been hearing clients discuss Impostor Syndrome more than ever. So many people in my personal and professional world have discussed the fears of losing a job, but these fears being supplemented by statements such as “I’m not seasoned enough” or “losing me wouldn’t be a great loss.” This is also a common theme amongst students, wondering if the input they provide in their Zoom classes is substantial enough, or if their classmates are more easily retaining information than they are because of how much more intelligent their classmates must be. We can also see Impostor Syndrome in our relationships, when we start comparing ourselves to our partner’s previous partners, or wondering what they see in us compared to some of the other people they have been with. Impostor Syndrome has always been there for many of us, whether we have known how to label it or not, but it does not have to stop us from fulfilling our goals and dreams.

Who develops Impostor Syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is not exclusive to any group of people. Although it is most commonly found in individuals who grew up with high achievement standards, many very successful people have had to overcome their self-doubt and validate their capabilities.  Some well-knownexamples of these include CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz; Tom Hanks; Maya Angelou; Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Duke University, Valerie Shears Ashby; David Bowie; Tina Fey; and Serena Williams. All of these individuals can be seen to many as the best at what the do, the most intelligent in their fields, or the most awarded in their sport – yet still they have been outspoken on what it would feel like if everyone were to discover that they were a fraud, or that there were others out there more deserving of the opportunities they have earned. In our everyday lives, feeling like a fraud or finding others to be more deserving can come out in many ways. For many people in the work force, feeling like an impostor can mean that they do not want to accept compliments or praise about their performance, because they are still comparing themselves to others who they perceive are at a higher level. Feeling like an impostor can also create a spiral effect, where those feelings of inferiority or imagining yourself to be a fraud, can cause you to put extra time into perfecting your work or craft, which leads to not participating in enough self-care or recognizing your contributions. I have heard from several individuals who have been passed up for a promotion, that following this they poured their time into work, seeking to be the best in their division, and as a result grew tired, burnt out, resentful, and ignored some of the most important things in life like family, friendships, and hobbies. Even when it comes to hobbies and extracurricular activities, those feelings related to Impostor Syndrome can surface. You may start dictating your goals for improvement by comparing yourself to the work or abilities of others, which becomes de-motivating and causes you to stop your craft. For example, if you start learning to play the piano, and begin to truly enjoy learning and setting goals for yourself to improve, that’s great! However, when you begin to watch videos of other talented pianists, or have friends who are able to play really well, and start to think to yourself things such as ‘I’ll never be as good as my friend,’ ‘I’m not good enough to play in front of other people,’ or ‘I just can’t learn fast enough,’ resulting in you to totally give up on learning, the sting of Impostor Syndrome may start to be getting to you. It is important for you to know that you are not alone in feeling the way you do about yourself, and although the world around you applauds your accomplishments, it is up to you to buy in to the belief about how strong, capable, and intelligent you are as well!

What helps in combating impostor syndrome?

  • Redefine what being successful means: Those with impostor syndrome often fall into the theme of chasing the destination and not enjoying the journey. When we are so focused on achieving milestones that we feel will increase our status or better others perceptions of our capabilities, we don’t recognize the hard work we took to get there. Ask yourself: am I living a life that is dictated by being the best, or am I living a life where I am the best for myself, but thriving to continue learning and growing? Many people also often get caught up in the fears of being a rookie at their craft. Why are you rejecting yourself because you aren’t at the same level as a colleague who has been at your company for ten years? Why do we let the comparison to others successes stop us from doing what we truly love? You are learning and are growing every day! You are writing your story on the ladder of success right now, and if you focus too much on the end product, you ignore all the steps you took and triumphs you have had on the way to getting there.
  • Focus on why you belong and the myths your mind is making up:The job, school, program, group, or organization you belong to, did not select you because you are the worst at what you do. You are an important part of these and you were chosen to be there for a reason! When Impostor Syndrome comes creeping in, it’s helpful to ask yourself about the validity of the claims it’s making against you. A common negative thought, such as ‘I don’t belong here’ can be negated often simply by asking yourself, ‘what’s my evidence for that?’ followed by ‘what’s my evidence against that?’ For example, if you are selected for a promotion at work, the evidence that supports this is that clearly you have excelled at your job, managers and supervisors admire your work, and you have built a good reputation in your company. In the astounding majority of cases, you would not be chosen for a promotion if your company wanted you to fail, if they thought there were better candidates for the position, or if you were not viewed as valuable and knowledgeable in your life of work.
  • Practice mindfulness and self-gratitude:A part of being mindful is not just focusing on your faults or deficits, but giving yourself time to celebrate your successes in the present moment that they are happening. Reflecting on that promotion, high grade on a test or homework, or personal achievement in a hobby or sport can help remind you why you deserve to be where you are. Work on trusting yourself and those around you by remembering why you are at this point in life, and the things you do every day to keep yourself or your organization growing. There are so many ways you can do this; whether it be through daily mind and body scans, meditations, journaling, or repeating a mantra to yourself about how capable you are. The important thing is that you take some time once in a while to appreciate yourself and all the hard work you put into life, without negatively comparing your struggles or successes to those of others.
  • Talk to someone about it: I promise you, you are not alone in feeling like an impostor. Talk to your coworkers or social supports to normalize making mistakes, not knowing the answer to something immediately, or if you just need to build comraderies with others to openly discuss your feelings about your role. Talk to trusted professionals, supervisors, your therapist, or family members about how they built their confidence in their roles and what helped them along the way. We are all trying to give our best every day, and you are doing an awesome job at it!

How Perfectionists Are Punished By the Pandemic

Posted on: May 6th, 2020 by Lindsey Rogers, LCPC

The coronavirus pandemic is terrible, causing us all to have to adjust to a completely unprecedented way of living. It is tremendously, dreadfully hard. It is hard on an older generation who might not be used to socializing via Zoom and does not want to spend their retirement limited to social distancing from their peers and the community in which they have invested. It is hard on the extroverts who get energy from engaging and being with others. It is hard for the folks who were already fearful of contamination, as this is now their nightmare realized. It is hard for those who are working full-time and have no work-life balance and those who are now struggling financially because they are not working. It is hard on the single folks who are alone and may feel listless trying to fill their time. It is hard on the people with a full household who are juggling work and fulltime childcare and education. In some way or another, this current state is causing everyone to lose a little. That is what sacrifice is about. However, the group that might feel exceptionally punished by this time is the perfectionists who are used to doing and being it all. Because right now, perfectionism is utterly impossible.

Why perfect is impossible right now
Perfectionism is all about finding control, achieving, and getting results. However, we are not in a result-driven time. We don’t know what life is going to look like in the next few weeks, let alone months or years. Having to settle for less than amazing when you have spent your life doing well is so hard and such a loss. There is a lot of thought likening this time to a grief period. Perfectionists are likely experiencing all the grief states such as denial and anger when they are faced with the loss of what they have been able to achieve in the past versus what can be done now. Now is a time of surviving and maintaining, and improving ourselves—which has been the lifeblood of perfectionists—is getting harder and harder.

To the perfect moms and dads
As a perfectionistic parent, there may have been a push to do all the virtual classes and all the activities in the early weeks. Work full time and be a full-time teacher for the kids? No problem! Bring on the impossible, right?! You basically eat Pinterest boards for breakfast so you can totally do this. But sustained overextension has likely burned you out. You may be fighting with your children or partner because they have their own resistance to your perfectionism, especially now. You may typically be able to move mountains, but now you have little people who may be resistant to rules/listening/bathing/learning/etc. and couldn’t care less about your color-coded schedule board.

To the perfect workers
As someone who is perfectionistic about your job, perhaps you are taking on all the roles and singlehandedly keeping your business going. Maybe you are starting to feel resentful and question why you are working so hard. Perhaps you are neglecting yourself and sleep. It is possible that you have also burned out and perhaps received negative feedback about your performance, which is a huge gut punch because you so deeply care about work and your legacy. Maybe you have previously plotted the best career steps for you and now your industry or line of work is negatively impacted. There is nothing like a global pandemic to make you shift from having a strong focus and identity tied to work to questioning your purpose.

To the perfect caretakers
As a perfectionistic friend or family member, maybe you have spent a lot of time being there for everyone. Maybe planning celebrations and other ways of being thoughtful are getting cancelled so you have shifted to sending and dropping off all the things you think might cheer others up. Maybe you are making all the Zoom calls despite your exhaustion and checking in with everyone else. Perhaps the pressure you have put on yourself to singlehandedly be attuned to everyone else’s mental health might be having the opposite effect on your own mental state. It is possible you are feeling detached or just empty inside.

To those with perfect aesthetics
As someone who has perfected your appearance or the appearance of your space, it is possible this is starting to get hard to maintain. Perhaps you have relied on others to maintain your appearance, such as hairstylists, and now left to your own devices you have not produced a perfect set of bangs. Maybe you are experiencing fluctuations in your weight right now despite usually having a tight grip on what the scale says. Maybe you are used to having an über-clean and organized home but you can’t keep up with the amount of laundry/dishes/floor cleaning now that everyone is home all the time. Perhaps you have leaned into organizing yet you have run out of things to de-clutter and now feel stuck with nothing more to do with that nervous energy.

How to settle for less
If you have a reaction to the above subtitle, take a breath and don’t stop reading just yet. In a lot of ways, this time is causing us to flex and make changes that will benefit us in the long run. It’s easier said than done to lean into positives right now. However, finding ways to loosen the grip that perfectionism might have on you is a good thing. Right now, perfection has to shift from results to process.

Notice little blips of perfect
If you are not completely ready to let go of perfectionism, there are ways to notice and attribute some of the control you want. Baby steps, right?! Find ways to complete tasks or find small moments of making things perfect. Maybe you can focus on a specific assignment, work conversation, or interaction with others. Perhaps the entire house can’t be perfected, but getting the dishes done each night is possible. Whether it is finishing a project, a puzzle, a book, or organizing a shelf, something—there are ways to have some of that sense of achievement that perfectionists crave. A caveat though: See small moments of completion and perfection as band-aids versus a gateway drug to taking on more and more and then getting burned out once again.

Notice perfect presence
The pull towards perfectionism is often about how it looks versus how hard it is to get there. Embodying the principals of mindfulness, if you can be present right now that is good enough. Instead of getting pulled into the past or future, staying mindful allows us to loosen some of the hold perfectionism can have. Meditation is a huge help with mindfulness. Breathing and taking in a sensory experience is what we can go all in on right now. Use that energy of being a hard worker to turn inward and strive for finding ways to breathe, moments of calm, and focus on acceptance.

You are perfectly human
Embrace failures. Lower expectations. Let go. Allow yourself to be vulnerable and break down. These statements spit in the face of perfectionism. Let others see your flaws? Accept your humanity and allow others to see you are not actually superhuman?! Absolutely not; no thanks. But that is the way through this. We need to ask for support and allow some of our friends, family, and colleagues to succeed and win. This goes against every fiber of our being. But we have to stop swinging from one extreme to another. Not being perfect does not mean failure. We literally cannot do everything now, but we also can’t do nothing. So find moments, even very small ones, where you just try on the idea of agreeing that you are struggling, too. Let yourself admit that you are imperfect during a global pandemic. In a time of restrictions and loss, what you can receive or gain is the freedom to be authentic with yourself and the world around you.

Healthy Living Starts Now

No matter your obstacles, you don’t have to face them alone. We offer comprehensive support so you can regain control and rebuild your life. To learn more about our services or to schedule a free 20-minute consultation, please call (312) 346-5156

We are in-network with Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO (BCBS PPO) and Aetna PPO

counselor blue cross blue shield (BCBS)aetna ppo