Who do you think you are? Why should anyone listen to you? What makes you think you are smart enough, qualified enough, or overall good enough to do this?
These are some of the thoughts that have been running through my head since I first started thinking about introducing Dr. Tara’s Sunshine.
Yup - classic Imposter Syndrome.
If you have ever had similar self-doubts or wondered when the people around you would finally realize that you aren’t as smart or talented or capable as they think you are, you too may have experienced this distressing syndrome.
Secrets of a Happy Life: Recognizing and Reducing Imposter Syndrome
First reported by psychologists Imes & Clance in the late 1970’s, imposter syndrome is a condition whereby high achievers struggle to internalize their own accomplishments and fear being revealed as “frauds”. Instead of acknowledging their strengths and capabilities, these individuals typically attribute their successes to luck, chance, timing, sympathy, charm, or other external influences. They often believe that other people have been deceived into thinking they are smarter or better than they actually are.
“The More I Learn, The More I Realize How Much I Don’t Know” - Einstein
This is not my first encounter with imposter syndrome. Like my longstanding struggles with perfectionism, it has been a part of my constitution for decades. As many of you can relate, the severity of our self-doubt can wax and wane depending on the environment and current life circumstances. Imposter syndrome has gathered momentum in recent months as I have faced the challenges of a new endeavor. Tackling the learning curve of the blogosphere, I am acutely aware of all the things I don’t know. This, too, is not a novel experience and I am partially reassured by recognizing that I am in good company: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know” is one of Einstein’s famous quotes.
Imposter syndrome can trip us up in many of the same ways as perfectionism. It may prompt us to back down from challenges, allow ourselves to be overlooked for promotions or pay raises at work, and make us more susceptible to stress, anxiety and depression. Learning how to tackle Imposter Syndrome can help us build the healthy, happy family life we all want.
Facing Our Fears Together: Human Connection, Perspective and Self-acceptance
One of the reasons I decided to write this piece is because I know that secrecy and silence serve to strengthen our fear, shame and insecurities. Conversely, by calling out imposter syndrome, connecting with others, and realizing we are not alone in our experience, we can diminish its power.
It is also important to gain a more realistic perspective of our strengths, weaknesses and expectations. It is vital to know when to bring in reinforcements and call for supports but also to recognize both what we have accomplished and what we are capable of. We need to acknowledge our value and own our success.
Empathy, compassion and acceptance of ourselves and others can be our superpowers. Sometimes it is enough to be reminded by a trusted friend or mentor that they believe in us or that they don’t have it all figured out either. We can, in turn, share those same gifts with the people who seek our guidance. When the doubts creep in, we need to take a breath and stand firm to prevent them from dictating our behaviour. To stay courageous in the face of challenge, we need to acknowledge that we will make mistakes and certainly won’t always be right. But we do not have to know everything or be perfect to make a worthwhile and significant contribution.