I’m sure we’ve all played or heard of that silly little game called Among us (if you’re like me, you’ve played it A LOT during this past year as a way to connect virtually with friends). The concept is pretty simple, there are a bunch of crewmates on a space ship and depending on the amount of players, there are one or two imposters.
In this post, despite the introduction, I won’t be talking about the murderous imposters in Among Us, but about the feeling that I’m sure many of us have experienced; Imposter Syndrome.
If you’re reading this, I’m sure you may have experienced first hand, or have supported someone experiencing imposter syndrome. Think to a time you got invited to an interview, got a job, won an award, had an achievement of yours shared publicly…. did you ever find yourself think “who me?”, “what did I do to deserve that?”, “maybe they made a mistake” or “I was just lucky, I had lots of help”. Then you probably know what we’re talking about here!
According to Psychology Today, people who struggle with imposter syndrome believe they are undeserving of their achievements and the high esteem in which they are generally held. They tend to put down their successes to luck and good timing, instead of acknowledging their capabilities and efforts that other people recognize. Often, those with imposter syndrome are actually well accomplished and may hold high office or have many academic degrees.
Research suggests that around 25-30% of people that present as high achievers may suffer from imposter syndrome, and around 70% of adults may experience this feeling at least once in their life time.
I thought it would be important to write about this subject because I am among the 70% of adults who have experienced imposter syndrome, and am one of the people who have 2 degrees, many years of work and volunteer experience, and still believe that I am an imposter amongst the people I surround myself with. I have an honours degree in science specializing in kinesiology, and a masters degree in Occupational therapy. I have been working as a pediatric occupational therapist since January 2020, and have worked with people with physical challenges for years in various capacities. Yet, every day I feel that I am just getting by on luck, and right place right time. This even happens in things that I feel come naturally like teaching yoga. I’ll be mid teaching a class and my thoughts will race thinking what I’m doing is boring, that people only are here cause they needed movement and not because they wanted to learn from me….. and then at the end of every class I get positive feedback. And every class works the same way. I have been working so hard to learn and grow during the pandemic year, and now that I am starting a new job as a physical medicine occupational therapist working in the community, the imposter syndrome is higher than ever.
But the one thing that has helped me a lot, and I hope can help you (if you are resonating with this post), is that we are not alone. I still talk to my closest friends from occupational therapy school, and even over a year after graduating, we all still talk about imposter syndrome.
What causes imposter syndrome?
Often, those who experience struggles with self efficacy, perfectionism and work in competitive environments can express imposter syndrome. Feeling pressure to perform at your absolute best 100% of the time, without the option to fail can lead to feeling incompetent and anxious when you aren’t perfect. This is something I can strongly relate to, as someone who always strived to get 100% in school as a kid and had to work really hard during my masters degree to come to terms with the idea that grades didn’t matter. There is always option to learn and grow in a job, but it takes all my energy to accept that and take leaps without knowing every single thing. And if I don’t have the option to learn everything before I start, I feel heavy anxiety – good thing I work in a profession where you learn on the job every single day eh?
Did you know that imposter syndrome also ironically can be triggered by calling attention to successes? So if you get a high mark on an exam, receive an award, or get a promotion, you can feel imposter syndrome. As well, if you have a string of successes and then experience a failure, you may critique and question your entire capability (ignoring the successes you had).
Things you can do to help with imposter syndrome
An article in Forbes talks about the only way to never have imposter syndrome is to never grow… and honestly… yes I guess that is the only way to really never experience this. But though imposter syndrome is uncomfortable, it is not something you should let hold you back!
I could easily tell you to “stop putting pressure on yourself to complete everything perfectly”, and to “stop comparing yourself to others”, but coming from a perfectionist who is always unconsciously comparing myself to others, I know that’s probably not going to happen. So instead, let’s build some strategies to help you work through that imposter syndrome.
Make sure you acknowledge that you have earned your successes in life because of your skills and hard work – if this is hard for you, SAME. But let’s find some ways to remind ourselves. You can surround yourself with a couple people to remind you how hard working you are; maybe it’s a friend, colleague or family member who has watched you persevere through some challenges. Maybe you let them know what you need and on days that you are feeling especially like an imposter, you text/call them and they can send you some reminders. You can find a group of peers with relatable experiences – perhaps someone with the same career, life path, fellow parents etc … my one piece of advice is to find personal connections. Making a couple close personal connections where you can be real with each other will be much more supportive than depending on mommy blogs or social media accounts relating to your job, as most times comparison can be HEAVY in large groups. Perhaps you have some of your certificates you collected posted somewhere you can see, or maybe you have a linkedIN account with the jobs you had in the past so you can remind yourself of all you’ve done. Maybe there are some free courses online or some information that you can read, or someone at work you can connect with as a mentor to feel like you have more knowledge under your belt. If you’re a stay at home parent, remember YOU’RE RAISING A TINY HUMAN. Maybe you have a photo album or scrapbook of your child’s years, or a close person in your life who can remind you of the achievements your child has had (because you’re related to those!). Regardless of what you’re feeling like an imposter about, maybe you can journal a couple accomplishments down, list off some important things you hold high in your life etc, so you can recognize yourself!
A skill that you can also work on is Radical Acceptance. Radical acceptance is a tool used in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) that is used to help clients see the present moment objectively rather than JUST emotionally. This link goes into a bit of detail about radical acceptance and DBT, and there are some worksheets you can download to work through it on your own.
Sometimes it might take a while to move through imposter syndrome. Sometimes you might find yourself feeling these feelings more when you are anxious or feeling low about yourself. But I promise you will make it through and you are not alone. You are brilliant, you are smart and strong and CAPABLE ❤
If you have any practical advice to share, or your personal story, please leave it below in the comments – the more we can share our experiences, the more normalized this can feel.