A few years ago, I wrote about attending a Seattle Counselors Association (SCA) meeting where I was deep in Imposter Syndrome mode. I was surrounded by a fantastic group of people, all with a bunch of letters after their names (PsyD, Ph.D., EdD, LCSW, etc.). I have some letters after my name, but they didn’t stack up in my mind. As a result, I felt like an imposter.
Read on to find the good, the bad, the ugly, and the surprising side of Imposter Syndrome. Trust me, it’s not all bad, and you are in good company.
What might Imposter Syndrome look like?
- We tell ourselves we are a fraud.
- We fear others will discover we are a fraud.
- We only look at our failures and don’t internalize our successes.
The downside of Imposter Syndrome:
- We hold ourselves back: We may not take on additional responsibilities because we don’t think we are good enough.
- We doubt our abilities: If things go well, we may attribute the success to outside factors.
- We take on too much responsibility for failure: If things go wrong, we attribute the failure to our lack of skill.
- We hold ourselves back from opportunity: Whether it’s an opportunity for connection or promotion, our lack of confidence, we don’t put ourselves in a position to participate at a higher level.
The upside of Imposter Syndrome:
- It can motivate us to work harder: When we feel like an imposter, we may feel like we have something to prove.
- It can motivate us to work smarter: Feeling like an imposter may help us question our assumptions and others, which may lead to better solutions.
- It can motivate us to be better learners: When there is a bit of self-doubt, we may double down on learning and encourage us to seek counsel from others.
If you think you are the only one experiencing Imposter Syndrome, think again. This Humanest article may surprise you with the list of highly-successful people who admit to Imposter Syndrome (teaser: Lady Gaga is one of them).
Back to attending the meeting, here are my learnings:
- I put bravery above fear. I stepped into the room and was heartily received. I belonged. Maybe I didn’t belong to the licensed mental and medical health practitioners group. Still, I belonged to a group dedicated to helping those with mental illness thrive.
- There’s a place for everyone. Every person in the room had a diverse set of skills and talents to contribute.
- Participation helps us become part of the group. Although scary, I had great one-on-one conversations and asked many questions. I didn’t need to know everything, I was there to learn, and people appreciated my participation.
- Be you. There was no point in pretending I had the skills others possessed. I was there to learn from them, not be them. You be you; let them be them.
- Maybe it’s right; maybe it’s not. Our guts are impressive indicators; trust it. I felt invigorated after leaving the meeting, so the connection was right for me. I’ve had other opportunities where I felt drained after making these connections. My gut told me it wasn’t right.
Now that you know what Imposter Syndrome looks like, how it holds you back, and how you can benefit from it, what actions can you take to embrace, and not run from, this pervasive thought process?
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Cindy Jobs, PCAC, ACC
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