Don’t know what you’re doing? Neither do a lot of us. Coping with Impostor Syndrome

This blog was originally posted on March 07, 2016. I figured it was time to revisit.

So, I’m going to let you in on a secret….

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m a licensed clinical psychologist who has over 11 years of experience.

So, even though I try to look like this:

 

….I sometimes find I create a mental image of myself more like this dog above.

Those of us who have come succeeded or excelled beyond what others have thought we were capable of, or beyond what we may have thought was possible, often experience a sense of being undeserving, or a fraud in the midst of our accomplishments. We may have had experiences of racism, sexism, homophobia, or transphobia which reinforce our uncertainties about ourselves. These experiences may contribute to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress.

Yep, that dog is pretty cute, but when someone’s engaging in a career that they have worked hard for, with a lot of meaning to them, it doesn’t feel too good to think of yourself like this, does it?

A lot of great content has been written about Impostor Syndrome. To put it briefly, it is a term that was developed in the late 1970’s by two psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes to refer to a phenomenon they discovered where high achieving individuals struggled immensely with the ability to internalize and own their accomplishments, often having the subjective experience of being a “fraud” or “impostor” who would eventually be found out.

Many of us who experience this phenomenon may be women or people of color from communities who are largely underrepresented in our fields. Some of us may be from working class backgrounds and may have been the first of our families to attend college or graduate school. When people who look like us, sound like us, or come from similar backgrounds are underrepresented in our field, it often makes it difficult for us as children to imagine ourselves as confidently pursuing our dreams as well. When we grow into adults, we often carry the insecurities and wounds of structural inequalities and societal expectations with us.

Although Impostor Syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis in and of itself, when we feel isolated in our experience and therefore have difficulty managing and speaking back to our worries about whether we are good enough, shame, anxiety, and depression may set in and interfere with our ability to fully appreciate and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

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