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.

 

The Constant Quest for Happiness

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The Quest for Happiness

(originally posted by the author in July 2016 on another blog)

It is increasingly common these days for people, (especially those under the age of 40) to be on an eternal quest for happiness. Now I could easily write 10,000 words on the subject and have still only scratched the surface, but for now I will tell you about my “quest”.

The quest can be categorised as the search for the object or situation that will finally bring you lasting happiness. It could be a job, a romantic partner, an ideal weight or any other “event” that will trigger the eternal happiness, and then that person thinks that a switch will be flicked on and they will wake up every morning feeling happy. But, the thing is, the Quest itself is the main thing stopping you from achieving that happy, contented feeling. I, myself, have pursued the discovery of the one thing that will “flick that switch” for me and it took years to realise that what I was looking for, I had all along.

Whilst on my quest for happiness I believed that it was my career that would unlock the key to happiness for me. I was stuck in dead end jobs and believed that once I got an office job, I would be happy. But I wasn’t. I got the office job and I still wasn’t happy. Then I thought I needed more money, so I got a better office job. But that didn’t work either. Then I thought I needed recognition of position. Yep, did it and that didn’t work either. So I thought the answer was obvious. I had always wanted to have my own business and work for myself. Surely that freedom would unlock the key to my eternal happiness. Luckily before I drove myself insane, I managed to realise that what I was chasing didn’t exist.

Mindfulness. It is a word that is very popular at the minute, although not many know the true concept. I interviewed over 30 people who expressed an interest in mindfulness and only 4 truly knew what it meant. Mindfulness is being touted as the new cure-all for depression, obesity, stress, heart disease and more. And don’t get me wrong, it is incredibly good for you, if you are practising it properly, but there are so many people out there teaching their own interpretations of mindfulness that, unfortunately, it just sets people off on new quest for happiness. They will finally be happy once they “master” mindfulness. This is a contradiction of enormous proportions. It is impossible to be happy all of the time. But it is possible to be at peace with your situation and existence. Read “The Guide to Happiness”, written through interviews with the Dalai Llama. Read “What’s in the Way, is the Way” by Mary O’Malley. These books tip the western thinking of “pursuing” or “achieving” happiness on it’s head.

Now happiness is different for all individuals, what may make you happy may terrify me and vice versa, and the many self-help books that tell you the “magic recipe” to happiness, to confidence etc don’t work. Some of them have great ideas, but unfortunately the results are seldom long term. There is no magic cure, no step by step guide that will change your life into a happily ever after. It is not something that can be taught like history. It is not a permanent state that can be accessed and inhabited. Happiness is a fleeting or lingering emotion. It will come and it will go. We cannot be happy all of the time. We cannot control happiness. It is unique to the individual, but there are certain premises and techniques that help most people maintain a peace within themselves that eradicates this incessant need to seek happiness.

 

  1. Let things go
  2. Realise that upsetting things will happen to you in life
  3. Realise that you are going to die
  4. Prioritise your life
  5. Enjoy life
  6. Be mindful
  7. Do not expect anything
  8. Learn to accept others
  9. Learn to understand others

 

And that was it. Instead of chasing the items, situations and objects I needed to be happy, I realised I could just accept life in that moment and choose to be happy. Now you may think it is easy for someone, who’s life is pretty good in the first place, to say that. Well here’s the thing. My life isn’t pretty good. It is rife with struggle, grief, and trauma. But I am ok. When something awful happens, I can choose to be ok. But I can also choose to really feel all the bad bits as well. Because that is what life is. It is the good and the bad. And there is no point in pretending otherwise. Accept that there will be bad times. Accept that there will be good times. Accept that there will be boring times. Most importantly accept that eternally chasing a fairytale is the most sure route to misery.

Now do nothing. Stop and appreciate the world around you. Appreciate the wonder of you being alive right this moment. It is tiring, trying to keep up with everything society thinks we should be doing, a career, a great family life, a successful relationship, constant personal growth. Chasing a perpetual dream will leave you exhausted, especially if it is one that doesn’t really exist. Don’t judge anyone, don’t judge yourself, don’t compare yourself to others. Do nothing. You are a human being. You don’t need to meditate to a point of ultimate Zen, or run away from your true feelings, just embrace your true nature. Don’t try to change yourself, just change the way you approach life. It is not a race. It is a wonderful, amazing, impossible thing happening to you right now! Stop waiting for the thing that will trigger eternal happiness and enjoy being alive.