Have you ever suffered from intense anxiety at the workplace? Consistently doubting your accomplishments, and fearing sooner or later someone will find out that you’re not all that you’re cracked up to be? You know, that feeling deep inside that you’re not good at your job. The anticipation that sooner or later you’re going to make a mistake and people will find out that all this time you were secretly a fraud? This condition is known as Imposter Syndrome, and it’s a lot more common than you may think.
Before I knew what Imposter Syndrome was, I think I suffered from an unhealthy case of it. I used to doubt myself all the time as a new therapist, fearing that others would uncover soon enough that I wasn’t as competent as they once thought. Through self-awareness and continuously changing my mindset, this is thankfully a thing of the past. During my years in clinical practice, I started becoming aware of this condition that the majority of my clients were referring to as Imposter Syndrome. Many of my clients believe that they aren’t as competent as others perceive them to be, and they greatly fear that one day someone will eventually find this out. They consistently doubt themselves and worry about any situation where their vulnerability may show through, and others’ perceptions of them may be tainted.
It’s common for all of us to doubt ourselves every now and then. Let’s face it, every one of us couldn’t possibly be a pro at all things all of the time. However, when the self-doubt is consistent and chronic, it can most definitely become a barrier not only to our mental health but also to our enjoyment and functioning in the workplace. When we ruminate about our insecurities, we become crippled by them. We stop taking risks, we try to remain under the radar, and see if we can sneak by just one more day without getting caught.
The best course of action to correct Imposter Syndrome is to recognize when we’re giving ourselves negative labels when thinking about our perceived weaknesses. It’s helpful to remember that a part never equals a whole. So if we’re not competent at everything at all times, it hardly means we’re a complete failure, no good, or a worthless person. Just as performing well at something wouldn’t make us entirely competent people, poorly executing something doesn’t render us altogether useless either. To get out of this train of thought, it’s helpful to look flexibly at ourselves and in perspective, rather than rigidly uphold negative all-or-nothing self-labels.
It’s important to think about the actions of others, and how in most cultures it’s encouraged that we consistently put our best feet forward. It’s in our very nature to broadcast our strengths and to minimize our apparent weaknesses. It may appear that we are the only person with self-doubt and insecurities when it’s more likely that the majority of people are feeling the same way that we do at any given moment. So don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations, and don’t put yourself down with a label when you make a mistake. We are all human, we are all fallible, and our weaknesses never define us.