Imposter Syndrome

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Wiki describes Imposter Syndrome like this:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

“Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

Impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achievers, but it is said that 70% of us will experience it at some point in our lives, so it is more common than first thought. It is true though that those who are more brilliant tend to suffer from it more extremely.

I can only speak for myself, but imposter syndrome is something I have encountered at every step of my life. In every job I have ever had I have never been able to shake the feeling that they are going to rumble me, and that I will be fired for not being good enough. That one day someone will request a meeting with me and say “You shouldn’t be here.” Every time that I receive praise on how well I am doing I smile awkwardly and try to give them an excuse as to why I “appear” to be doing so well.

When I first started my therapy practice it plagued me more than ever. I was convinced that one day a client would look across at me and say, “Who the hell do you think you are, trying to help me with my problems? You are a liar and you are going to jail for being a fraud!”

That was my honest thought on the subject. I seriously believed that I was going to get into trouble for setting up my business, despite being fully qualified, and achieving high results on all my studies, because I felt like a total fraud. It is a feeling that I still haven’t quite shifted to this day, but one that I manage a lot better.

If we take my therapy practice for an example (I even have trouble typing the words and calling it that because a little voice in the back of my head says “it’s not really though is it? It’s not a real one is it so you can’t call it that.”) I actually found that my attitude was starting to sabotage sessions. It was minute, almost imperceptible little things, but I noticed. My lack of confidence in myself was communicating to certain clients, who I could see starting to shift in sessions, no doubt unconsciously picking up on this and implanting that doubt in their own minds. I realised that if I wasn’t careful and didn’t deal with this issue, I could turn my irrational thought into a truth. I wouldn’t be good enough to do my job, and it wouldn’t be through lack of knowledge or training, or not being able to do the job well, but it would be through letting my own mental processes interfere with the work that I was supposed to be doing. I had to do something about it, but what is there to do?

I began trying to talk to myself and motivate myself before sessions. I began “rehearsing” sessions with a non-existent client. I re-read study materials (that I knew like the back of my hand) and did old exercises from modules. I even sometimes would ask a client to close their eyes to do an exercise because their inability to watch me doing what I was doing helped me relax. I began going to any little course, seminar etc to make myself feel as though I was doing something, reigniting and maintaining my frame of mind. It helped, and little by little I didn’t need to do quite so much to feel more at ease. I still go on courses and to seminars etc as I feel that really helps to keep my mind keyed in to what I am doing and boosts my confidence.

I am really good at what I do, and always have been. It was only my own mind I had to prove that to.

I know that it won’t be the last time I encounter this problem, and I know that I am not the only one who does. I think thoughts like these can rot away at the base of your brain, undermining everything you do and ruining your chance to be happier and perhaps to excel. I know I have been afraid in the past of trying something, of pushing myself, because I thought I would fail because I wasn’t good enough. But through trying different things I have found ways that help me, and if more of us spoke about these things, maybe they wouldn’t knaw away at us, and maybe more people could feel happier.

 

Brain Fog

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via Daily Prompt: Foggy

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We’ve all experienced brain fog.

Normal brain fog is usually the inability to think clearly, make sense of a situation or use any problem solving skills. It’s a frustrating feeling, but there is a worse kind.

Emotional brain fog.

This occurs when you are so overwhelmed you can’t think rationally anymore.

I feel like that recently. There has just been too much, and I have reached my capacity. My brain cascades into numbness, I can feel it falling, shutters closing around me and then there is nothing. No errant thoughts and ponderings wandering across my mind, just the screams of the overwhelmed, the whimpers of the tired. I have very little fight left in me. I don’t know how to recuperate anymore. The words start but trail off a few sentences in.

Even writing this is taking longer than usual.

I need a break from everything, but in this modern life when do we get to take a break? I have to be at work at 9am tomorrow. How much of a break can you get in an evening where you have so many things to do, that can’t wait.

If anyone knows the answer, please give me a hint…

Who Am I?

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Who Am I? What Am I?

I have always struggled with these kinds of questions. I literally have no clue how other people perceive me. My usual answer to these questions is “quiet, a bit weird” or “laid-back, friendly?”.

I recently did an art piece using words to describe me, words that I had come up with and words I had asked other about. When it was finished I was pleased that I had come up with so many words, and I started going through them, but I realised that whilst the words written in front of me did in fact describe me, they could also describe billions of other people on the planet. Yes I was looking at an accurate description of myself, but not one that anyone would look at and guess immediately, “That’s got to be “L”!”.

So what would make someone say that? What could I put onto paper, that wasn’t a picture of myself, that would make someone say, “That’s you, definitely you.”

Is that what makes us, us? The bits in the middle, the bits that don’t seem important but that are unique to you.

I sat staring at it, feeling deflated, and wondering what I was missing. What was I?!

I am a girl woman who refers to herself as a girl when she really isn’t one anymore.

I am a woman who traces facial features, clothing hems and outlines, signs, traffic, and subtitled punctuation with her thumb obsessively, constantly and unconsciously.

I am a woman who drinks weak black decaf coffee and strong green tea. I drink weak gin and tonics and strong commercial beer.

I am full of regret and sadness.

I am full of hope and ideas.

I am a disillusioned Disney Princess who likes a drink.

I am a childless mother.

I am a walking existential crisis.

I am a health conscious smoker.

I am a workshy workaholic.

I am a depressed therapist.

I am the socially awkward life of the party.

I am a walking fucking contradiction, and I still don’t know if any of this is something people would read and say, that’s “L” right there.

What do you think constitutes as making someone “Who they are”?

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

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I have suffered from Panic Attacks since I was 15, and I was an anxious kid before that. My first Panic Attack was terrifying, I thought I was dying. I got rushed to the hospital, where they dismissed me because I told them that, at the time, I sometimes smoked pot. My Panic Attack had nothing to do with the pot that I sometimes smoked, but in less than 30 seconds I was out of the room and on my arse outside the hospital, still feeling like I was dying, but crying on top of everything else. I only smoked pot for a year or so, before quitting, but the Panic Attacks remained. I discovered that they ran in my family, and that family members were referred to as “suffering with their nerves”. Then one day I had a biggie, that made my first one look like a mere wobble. It was horrible, I didn’t know what to do, or what was happening.

Since that day, I have spent a significant portion of my life investigating, studying and researching Panic Attacks. I was determined to find a way to stop them, cure them or at least manage them. They have come and go throughout my life, currently, I haven’t had one in what must be a couple of years, which feels amazing, and speaking about them now is like trying to remember a nightmare once you’ve been awake for 30 minutes.

There have been times in my life, however, where I haven’t been able to sit on my couch at home and just be, because everyday is just one long prolonged Panic Attack, and after months of this, you are so exhausted that you end up at the out of hours doctors at the hospital at 2am, going out of your mind, pacing, willing time to stop, wishing you could go to sleep, but at the same time not wanting to miss a second of anything because you can barely trust your own senses and you have to be on high alert.

After one such trip to the hospital at 2am I was in the cab on my way home, having been turned away again for having “nothing wrong with me”, and I was suddenly done. I couldn’t take another person telling me there was nothing wrong, when my brain was lit up like a Christmas tree, and every day was an agonising, terrifying 24hours of misery and madness, when I was sobbing on the phone to the Samaritans outside a church somewhere, because I couldn’t be at home and I had nowhere to go. When I realised that I had been sat outside that church for hours, not moving, and wasn’t sure what time it was, or what I was even doing there. You can’t tell me that there’s “nothing wrong”. People who have nothing wrong with them, don’t often act like that.

So that night I went home and, as I always did, threw the sleeping pill they insisted I take with me in the bin, and sat on the internet for the rest of the night. I googled my fingers to the bone, determined to find someone out there who knew what was happening to me, or who could relate. I found a man from The Netherlands, who had had similar experiences to me. He too had had a moment where he realised that no-one was listening to him, and if he wanted to get anywhere, he was going to have to do it himself.

He taught me about the fight or flight response, how what my brain was doing was perfectly natural, just a bit misguided. He taught me how to handle things better, how to prevent one, once it had started happening, and how to regain control of my life.

And now, sitting here, they are like a distant nightmare. I know I will have one again, and I know there is no cure, but I am so glad that I found people on the internet, who knew what I was going through. They saved me and did more for me than any medical professional had even tried to do. I don’t want be negative about the doctors, but not one of them ever listened to me. They would look at my vital signs, conclude that I was fine, and send me on my way, their job being done.

I urge anyone, whoever experiences something that they are getting no help with, to find an online community. In the 21st century, finding solace in online members is as common as having physical people in your corner, but you just might find a bit more understanding.