I have a Master’s degree in Counseling, and have been working in the mental health field for 6 years. Before that, I got my Bachelor’s in Psychology; so really, I’ve been a student of the mind for 10! Yet, I have a great talent for acknowledging my lack of expertise. I, like so many others suffer from one of the great plagues of the high achieving: Impostor Syndrome.
First described back in the 70’s by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD; Impostor Syndrome (or Impostor Phenomenon as they also call it) is a reflexive self-talk pattern that undermines a persons belief in themselves, especially related to something for which they have been trained.
What Gives Me the Right?
In the above linked article, the author identifies a PhD student who, after years of study, began leading therapy groups at a psychiatric hospital. The student expressed a sentiment that I am very familiar with: Feeling not only like “being thrown into the deep end,” but also “forgetting how to swim.” With Impostor Syndrome, it is very easy to discount what we know, and focus instead on what we don’t.
I’m not really sure if Impostor Syndrome can really “go away,” but awareness of it can be a great asset. If I know that I struggle with being seen as an expert, then I can find a shortcut to reminding myself that anyone who has studied something for 10 years is an expert.
Stopping at Good Enough
Impostor Syndrome creates a vacuum of perfectionism that can ultimately leave us paralyzed. For example, I recently started teaching myself how to draw. I am by no means perfect, and as I look back at my older work I can see how much I have improved. That improvement came because I allowed myself to stop working on a drawing when it was “good enough,” because I knew it wasn’t perfect. In counseling, however, I pour over books and videos; I soak up as much information as I can so that I can be the “best” counselor, rather than one that is “good enough.”
The kicker is this: if I settle for nothing less than “perfection,” I will never be “good enough.” There is no such thing as perfection, so I am going to have to settle for “good enough.”
Has there been a time in your life that you have struggle with feeling like a fraud or an impostor? What helps you navigate the feeling? Leave a comment and we can discuss this further! If you enjoyed this post, give it a like and a share!