The imposter syndrome
He sat facing me, rubbing his hands together, a deep frown on his face, his voice shaky as his words came out in staggered sentences.“It’s getting almost impossible to show up at work… or stay with it when I’m there,” he told me.
He had come to me for anxiety and a panic disorder, referred by his physician who told me that Joe (not his real name) had been on various meds and with no effect and was now also suffering from insomnia.
As I read the questionnaire he had filled out and brought with him and asked many questions, including ones about the content of the nightmares that caused him to fear sleep, I had some valuable clues as to the cause of Joe’s difficulties.
In brief, Joe had given luck credit for just about every success he’d had, doubted his abilities were equal to those around him where he worked, and often felt he was faking it; in fact he felt that he had been getting away with “it “ by sheer luck and at any moment expected to finally fail, or be discovered as a fake. He said everyone told him they loved and admired him, but he had the dreadful feeling that if they really knew him and that he was pretending all along, they would not. He was exhausted from trying so hard to keep the internal struggle from showing on his face and in his behaviors.
Joes story isn’t unusual; he was suffering from The Imposter Syndrome.
Many people share Joe’s issues and the subsequent anxiety about being found out for frauds. The irony is that they do indeed have the talents, the brains, the abilities and skills required for success, and most have used them effectively enough to have achieved a great deal in their lives.
The problem is often that ( one) they have found that so much of what they do comes easily and naturally to them that it doesn’t feel real and is not always based on academically acquired knowledge. They can’t always explain how they have come to their conclusions or the great results they consistently produce. They are most often extraordinarily talented people with a great deal of intuition. Because they see others around them seeming to struggle with things that come so easily to them, they question the validity of their own sources.
( Two,) And probably one of the most important elements of this problem is that they are not identified with the talents and the gifts bestowed on them.
Indeed, there are many complex factors in every case, more than space in this blog allows. However, we need to understand that just as there are many causes for this disconnect; childhood experiences and sometimes adult ones too that influence a person’s concepts of themselves, there are just as many ways it can manifest.
People with the Imposter Syndrome do not see themselves as others see them. Their sense of inferiority conflicts with the positive messages they receive from others that would ideally be affirming; in their case they disqualify them for all the reasons that self-doubt can come up with. They feel they don’t deserve compliments and usually tell themselves people are just being kind.
They do not feel safe in a world where at any moment they may be un-cloaked and embarrassed;the consequences are terribly frightening. These are some of the sources of their anxiety; and the panic comes from the constant pressures of playing a role without true conviction and not being able to identify with the character they have scripted.
Of course there are many reasons for people’s anxiety and panic disorders.
It is therefore crucial to learn the basis for them and heal the person on the levels wherein the issues have originated and evolved.
All too often people with anxiety and panic problems are given drugs, and although at times this relieves the symptoms, it doesn’t eliminate the causes.
Those suffering with the Imposter Syndrome have spent their lives in constant fear and distress. When they understand the cause of their dilemma, it helps them immediately: It’s always a relief to know what is causing you so much pain, isn’t it?
With hypnosis I help them to recognize on the deepest levels of their consciousness the authenticity of the good others see in them and identify with those positives, and all their talents, skills, and that they have truly earned their successes.
I remind them that luck possibly plays a role in all of our lives, but it doesn’t deserve credit for our achievements.
An important part of the process is to help them realize that they are actually using their own inner resources to portray the character they have created on the stage of their lives. They are not borrowing those from others and wearing them like a suit of clothes; they come from within.
When they can finally identify with the character they have created with their own inner resources they are able to accept and enjoy their achievements: They are able to believe in themselves . The stress disappears and they go on to live in comfort and harmony within themselves and in the world.
I’m pleased to say that Joe now takes pride in himself and his successes. He reported to me, with some excitement in his voice, how he had been given a promotion and accepted the praise given without question. He said, “The anxiety and panic are things of the past and I’m enjoying being Joe, the good clever guy people love.
It will help you, when someone praises you, or acknowledge the good in you or something you have done, to accept it with a
“Thank you for appreciating me” kind of response rather than saying something that disqualifies the compliment.
At least that won’t reinforce self doubt.
TTFN and all the best, always, from Elaine Kissel