Imposter Syndrome: Learning to believe that you belong

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 “Thank you for meeting with me this morning, Adriana. I have some bad news…It turns out, contrary to our initial belief, that you are nowhere near being qualified enough for this position. Regretfully, I am going to have to let you go. Oh, and a word of advice…

Stop kidding yourself…”

 

(Queue the blaring alarm clock, and a panicked, sweaty mess shooting out of bed.)

 

Dreams like these are frequent occurrences for me. Not a day goes by that I don’t question how I got to where I am, and fear that I’ll be called out as the phony that I feel I am.

I sit in my office every day, send out some emails, work on calendars, plan events, and feel like a child playing dress-up. My anxiety worsens when I realize that in a mere five weeks, I will be done with school and starting on my journey towards a job in my selected field. Soon I will face important interviews that could help me to realize my dream of having a successful adult life. It could also be the moment I’m revealed as a confused girl who doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing.

Why, though, would anyone put themselves through that constant, worrisome hell?

What is Imposter Syndrome anyway?

As Wikipedia describes it, it is:

“A concept of describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud…proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

 

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For me, this has applied to not only my professional life, but my social life as well. Hoping no one finds out I’m not actually fun, cool, or interesting. Hoping no one finds out that I’m not a great mom. It’s a vicious cycle.

I feel that quite a few factors lead to my constant need for a figurative “mask,” such as relentless bullying throughout my grade school years, dating men who belittled me, befriending people who made me constantly question my integrity, and growing up in a household that needed work in the warmth, encouragement and support department.  I’ve also suffered with depression and anxiety for most of my life thus far (I cannot tell you how badly I would love to go into more detail, but this article would never end). All of this left stewing in my brain for years has led to a very insecure, highly doubtful, mess of a person.

But the good news is that I’m getting better. I’m gaining confidence. Slowly, but I feel it.

Now, with all this said, how does one with Imposter Syndrome cope, or banish the negative thoughts? Well, I’ve recently adopted several techniques to keep me from feeling like I don’t deserve:

·         Introspection – No one knows you better than yourself. Identify what has driven you to this frame of mind. The more you start to understand your mental and emotional processes, the easier it will be to recognize what triggers the cycle of self-doubt.

·         Communication – Being able to speak to someone about your doubts and fears can be incredibly cleansing. Choose someone you trust outside of the environment in which you are feeling inadequate.

·         Mindfulness/Meditation – Calmly focus on the present moment and acknowledge and accept your thoughts and feelings. Take deep, grounding breaths to calm yourself. Typically 5-10 diaphragmatic breaths will help slow your heart rate and help to slow down your racing mind in a pinch. If you have more time, daily meditation sessions are a great way to slowly change your frame of mind over time. There are some really great resources you can find online such as pocketmindfulness.com and YouTube (there are a ton of great guided meditation videos).

·         Yoga - There is a list a mile long documenting the benefits of practicing yoga. It increases your blood flow, promoting improved circulation, lowers your blood pressure, helps you focus, and makes you an all-around happier person due to the release of serotonin and decrease in the levels of monoamine oxidase. Seriously, do some research. Get you some mindfulness and tone those abs.

·         Remind yourself of your achievements – Create and achievement box. Write down each of your achievements, great and small, and add to it daily (i.e.: I got that great job I wanted. I studied for 3 hours straight for the test. I actually packed a healthy lunch! Hell yeah!). Whenever you are feeling low, crack it open and remember what a badass you actually are!

The positive affirmation I currently have as my desktop background. 

The positive affirmation I currently have as my desktop background. 

These are only techniques I have tried and found to have worked. Over time, you will discover things that are unique to you in making you feel that sense of deserving and accomplishment.

Dealing with insecurities and constantly battling with your mental health is no easy task, but never feel that you are alone. I feel you, I see you, and we can all get through this together. You’re kicking ass, so take off your figurative mask and feel the warmth of success on your skin.