I have had an exhausting few days. Not because I was out enjoying the fabulous weather this Victoria Day long weekend. Not because I did the Kitchener duathlon yesterday (I didn’t). I am all tuckered out because I spend the weekend feverishly studying for the Developmental Psych midterm I just finished writing.
I am taking an “intersession” course which mean that a whole university course is smooshed into 6 weeks. This intersession I am taking the class that I dropped last semester. It is an on-line class which means it is all reading and memorizing–basically a slog. It also means that the midterm falls a mere 3 weeks in, so today I wrote it. As the time for the test got nearer I got more and more nervous and more and more worried about how I would do. I eventually resorted to begging my Facebook friends to send me some of their brain power to get through it! I love that fact that my three dear friends from high school all immediately replied that they were sharing every spare brain cell they could muster with me. Any friendship the survived the awkward and often turbulent times high school are true friends indeed!
So I went in to my exam and with each question I became more relieved and more grateful. The exam was easy, very easy. In fact if I got more than 5 questions wrong on that 100 question exam I will be surprised. As I walked out I mentally thanks the professor for picking such easy questions. Then a thought percolated up from my subconscious….
Perhaps the test wasn’t easy perhaps I was just well prepared. As soon as I thought it I dismissed it. No! The questions just happened to be ones that I knew. I was just lucky. The prof wrote an easy exam.
I tend to do this with most things that I have some success with: if someone comments on how great my kids are I respond that I am lucky they are that way in spite of having me for a mother; when a student I taught or someone who heard me speak at a conference takes the time to send me a note and share how much they enjoyed it I think to myself that they mustn’t get out much; I confessed to a trainer at the gym this week that I am mortified of how slow my running pace is and he replied “slower that who, the people sitting on the couch?” I answered seriously, “No, Simon Whitfield” I was confused as to why to choked on his sports drink. So this is all leading somewhere….
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, I tend to be filled with more than a healthy dose of self-doubt and an even bigger dose of fear that soon somebody is going to find me out let everybody know that I am a big fake (a big-slow running-unininspiring-boring instructor-bad mom-fake). I was recently sharing some job-related anxiety with my fabulous neighbour-friend Nat and she started nodding her head and said, “That is imposter syndrome” Huh?
Well a google search later I have learned that there are a LOT of women who feel like this:
Many highly accomplished women suffer from the feeling that they are impostors and they do not belong where they are and they don’t deserve what they have accomplished through their own talent and hard work” Whole article HERE
They author then asks, Why? That is exactly what I want to know!
Now first off I don’t know if I am relieved that this is an actual phenomenon or that I am horrified that this is an actual phenomenon…and I want to quickly point out that I don’t put myself in the “highly accomplished” group, but even I have a nagging feeling that I don’t really deserve the small successes that I have received and that pretty soon someone is going to turn on the light and find me out.
Now if this seems weird and strange and you don’t get it–I am super happy for you! Skip this post because I am sure it must be irritating to read, but if you have had similar feelings google “imposter syndrome” and see all the info out there. You can even take a Imposter Phenomenon Test to see if you have it!
I haven’t gotten to the part of my research where I discover what to do about this, at the moment I am realizing in how many areas of my life I have allowed this to manifest. Admitting you have a problem is the first step, right?
So here are 10 Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome by Elizabeth Harrin. Check out her site and her e-book on the subject HERE. We can all learn together. I had added my own “wisdom” to her tips
- Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. So true! If other people feel the same way then we are probably NOT all crazy.
- Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are. Feelings are for feeling, but that doesn’t make them true. It can be challenging to alter the internal monologue
- Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or minorities in your field or work place it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider. Or you might be the last person in your age group to cross the finish line, just sayin’
- Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most. Don’t persevere over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. But I am pretty sure the earth WILL open up and swallow me if I don’t get an A on this exam. It was easy remember?
- Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human for blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on. Interesting side note here: Women tend to internalize failure (it was my fault) where men tend to externalize failure (The information we had was wrong).
- Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance. Okay I’ll start, What I would really like is a maid
- Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tapes that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project for example, instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.” This is the basis for cognitive behaviour therapy and it really does work. The key is it recognize the internal monologue that is faulty and replace it with a true statement; which can be challenging when you don’t realize the internal monologue is faulty. Someone else may have to help you with this one.
- Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress. All the research supports this–go crazy what would the perfect play look like?
- Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking and then dismissing validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back. Be kind to yourself
- Fake it ’til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behaviour first and allow your confidence to build. Winging it is a skill? Are you kidding me? Well then there is one thing I am very good at 🙂