Do you feel like an imposter?
When I was a newly minted psychologist, Ph.D. and license in hand after so many years of training, I felt pretty insecure. For the first five years, I would sit across from my patients, and at various moments think to myself— “I wonder what a real psychologist would say right now?”. I imagined one of my teachers, who always seemed to know what to say or do. Now, he was a real psychologist! --not me, despite my doctorate.
Slowly that thought faded, but it took much longer than I ever imagined to actually consider myself a real clinician. I compared myself with my mentors who had 10-15 years of experience. Of course, now I have over 35 years of experience, and much of what I do as a psychologist has become hard wired into my mind, heart, and soul.
Despite all of those years of experience, I still periodically have a dream where I forget to hand in a homework assignment or didn’t actually pass a class, and I had to give back my diploma! Many of my colleague’s report having the same exact dream.
I know I am not the only one that has felt like an “imposter”. Many adults, even those who have been doing something for a long time, can periodically feel like a fraud. They may have the thought— “if my boss knew how insecure I feel or how little I know; she would probably fire me!”.
I know most of us struggle with the ongoing feeling that we have no idea what we are doing as parents. I certainly didn’t go to “Dad” school, much less get a doctorate in parenting. I was trained as a child psychologist, but I soon learned that when it came to my own kids, I was just as blind and deaf as every other parent. But there were many times I was pretty hard on myself because I thought I should know better. The good news—my kids turned out to be stellar adults despite all of the mistakes I am sure that I made.
Some adults are plagued with these feelings, particularly about work. They are constantly worried about their performance on the job. They feel that it is just a matter of time before others discover what they feel to be true—they have no idea what they’re doing!
These individuals have very high expectations of themselves. In order to feel competent, they think they have to be perfect. They are the classic “overachievers”—doing way more than they have to, yet still worried that it won’t be enough. They compare themselves with others who appear to be more confident. When they do receive recognition for a job well done, they tend to credit others for the good results.
How can we nurture a more balanced view of ourselves on the job and at home?
Nurture realistic expectations.
In my case, getting my psychology license meant that I was still a “beginner” with much to learn, much like when you get your driver’s license. Yes, you are allowed to drive, but it will still take 10,000 miles on the road to be experienced behind the wheel. Thinking that you have to be an “expert” to do something capable is unrealistic. Even without a lot of experience, you can do an excellent job.
Feeling insecure doesn’t make you a phony.
Self-doubt shows up from time to time for all of us. When it does, adopt a more neutral attitude towards It’s visit. Having self-doubt doesn’t mean that you’re a phony! Just as other’s can’t read our minds, we can’t read theirs either. We all wonder from time to time how we are doing in all of our life’s roles—husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter, or worker.
Other people don’t necessarily share our view of ourselves.
It’s helpful to realize that our co-workers and supervisors may have a different view of our performance than we do.
Don’t compare yourself with others.
Each of us bring our unique qualities to what we do, as a worker, partner, or parent. We are all different—not better or worse. Celebrate your strengths.