You have made it. You have the career you worked so hard for, and you have the things you never thought would be yours: A decent salary, benefits, people reporting to you, and a boss who actually likes you. Yet still the Imposter lurks in the background. The Imposter tells you that you are balancing on a razor edge, and all of this could disappear. The words that fill your day are ‘I am not good enough’. You are in the grip of Imposter Syndrome.
I have worked with many people who have struggled with this, and without the right help, it can cause widespread damage. Without tackling Imposter Syndrome, people can remain stagnant in their career, avoid commitment in personal relationships, and I have even worked with clients who have been unable to buy a home because they did not believe they would keep the career that would pay for it. The constant theme in their life is that they do not believe in any of their strengths, resources and achievements.
So what on earth is going on? Why do some of us suffer from Imposter Syndrome? Here are some thoughts.
Twisted Thinking from your Negative Voice
Your Imposter Syndrome is coming from your Negative Voice. We all have one, but when you are in the grip of Imposter Syndrome you let this voice prevail, and it ends up impacting your thought process; you make assumptions in the negative, and you jump to conclusions about all sorts of things to prove the point that you should not deserve the status or accolades you have been awarded. David Burns calls this sort of thought process Twisted Thinking, and here are some examples -
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
Who opened the door to the Imposter?
When I help clients manage their Imposter Syndrome, I search for any ‘secondary gain’. Some clients continue to believe in the Imposter because they are somehow benefiting from this belief. This is especially so if a caregiver introduced this sense of disbelief in your own strengths and resources. We are so impressionable when we are young and our brains are forming; no matter how well-intentioned a caregiver, they may say certain things that open a door to allow an Imposter to creep in. For example, you may have had a parent who tells you that you are more of a sportsman than an academic, and so the doubts start to grow when you need intelligence in your career. Even when you have the evidence to show that you have done pretty well with your intelligence, there is an emotional pull away from this belief, because to accept it might mean that you reject (at least in part) that caregiver.
Often we feel like an Imposter because we are failing to meet our needs. We are so worried about being ‘found out’ that the last thing we want to do is draw attention to ourselves by asserting our needs. The trouble is, success requires us to speak up and assert our views and needs.
You don’t have to live with this Imposter forever; there are simple things you can do.
Chris Warren-Dickins, Psychotherapist
Ridgewood, New Jersey