by Sophia Pollalis ATC, CSCS

If you have a teenager at home, you may be familiar with the term “imposter” from the game Among Us. Among Us is a multiplayer game that can be played across platforms and networks that involves communication, task completion, and deception. In the game, you guess who a crewmate is and who is an imposter, similar to playing the live party game Mafia, before the imposters kill the entire crew. This is where the term “sus” came from, as in “orange is totally sus(pect)” to be the imposter. As an imposter, your job is to be on the down low and blend in without being caught.

Recently, I have been feeling very imposter-like, especially at work. It’s been very quiet (knocks on wood) so I haven’t had a lot of injuries to deal with. Doing my job brings me my sense of worth. In the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve had a handful of minor injuries pop up that I’ve easily dealt with and received praise from parents for helping their kids. I graciously receive their praise but inside I’m telling myself “I’m just doing my job” or “yea, but I did the bare minimum” or “someone else could have done a better job”. As a millennial that works with and enjoys mocking said teenagers, in my brain I’m totally sus.

Imposter syndrome is believing that you aren’t as competent as others think you are or as competent as you should be, usually based on intelligence or achievement. It is completely internal and can affect anyone. It’s not telling yourself that you’d like to get more education, it’s telling yourself you have a master’s degree, why aren’t you performing any better than this. It’s constantly doubting your abilities to complete tasks, even though you’ve been doing the same job for five years. It’s only feeling successful when you achieve external validation and beating yourself up when you don’t meet your own high standards. It’s over preparing, over explaining, and working harder than necessary to cover up your feelings of fraud. It’s “being lucky” or “in the right place at the right time” that contributes to your success. And it’s overwhelming.

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Imposter syndrome tends to be a high achiever trait, and approximately 70 percent of all adults will experience it at some point in their life. Perfectionism is a closely related trait, where people feel like they have to be performing at 110% and firing on all cylinders at all times. Sometimes imposter syndrome can be triggered by failure or achievement like getting a promotion. While both men and women experience imposter syndrome, it tends to be more prevalent in women, especially women of color. Society has told women that in order to succeed and be seen, we must be exceptional at all times and show no faults. We must be better than everyone else in order to deserve our position. This is simply not true. Our fears are valid, we are imperfect beings, we are human. We can only do our best with our resources and knowledge we have and learn from our mistakes and reach for our goals.

Last year (2019) was the first time I did an end of year reflection and review. I was amazed at the things I had accomplished and survived through, even though many of the items on my list were small. Unlike previous years when I finished big things like grad school or getting my first big girl job, I was still super proud of myself for having things like, I finished my third half marathon, or I got a dog. Toward the end of 2020, one of the tasks my therapist and I came up with was to start celebrating small victories and accomplishments, even if it was just doing the dishes. High five yourself, do a little happy dance, come up with a reward system that works for you. Sometimes I get so caught up in the future and things I have not yet accomplished that I feel worthless for not starting those tasks yet. It is a vicious cycle of feeling like you’re not enough and wanting to be so much more.

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Here are some things you can do to bring yourself out of an imposter period.

·         Staying focused on your own achievements and only compare you to yourself is one way to overcome imposter syndrome. Doing a regular reflection and review can be helpful, whether it’s daily, monthly, or yearly.

·         Share your feelings with a trusted friend. When you don’t share, the feelings gnaw at you. Plus, a friend can help you recognize your abilities.

·         Take smaller bites. Just because you can chew with a full mouth does not mean you’re doing it gracefully or that you could keep doing that meal after meal. Smaller bites make big goals or projects easier to digest and help you recognize the small successes you have achieved.

·         Stop comparing yourself to others. I hear this one constantly and honestly, it’s almost not helpful anymore. I know not to compare to others because everyone has different life goals. What becomes difficult is seeing everyone’s “normal” life on social media and comparing to that. Most of the time, people only post the good and the best things in their life, leaving behind the negative and the average. Limit your time on social media. If you’re having a particularly difficult imposter time, get off of social media entirely

1.       https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/imposter-syndrome

2.       https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469#what-is-imposter-syndrome

3.       https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud

4.       https://www.npr.org/2021/01/22/959656202/5-steps-to-shake-the-feeling-that-youre-an-impostor

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