Do you have anxiety and fear that someone’s going to find out you don’t know what you’re doing? Afraid that your manager, peers, residents, faculty or program director are going to figure somehow out that you don’t know everything? Have you ever called yourself a phony, fraud or pretender?
If so, then welcome to the imposter club! Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud."
Have trouble accepting compliments at face value? Do you dissect good feedback for hidden slander or sarcastic double meanings? I do. Whenever my boss or a co-worker says “Great idea Sandi!” or “This is amazing, fantastic job, thank you!”, I tell myself that they say that to everyone, they don’t mean it. Or worse, I start to think they were being sarcastic and I will obsess over whatever email or project I did to try to find where the glaring error was that exposed my incompetence… I will sometimes obsess over something like this for days, or lay awake in bed, restless with thoughts of self-doubt.
Those of us with imposter syndrome give power to these fears and allow them to keep us from taking the steps needed to achieve our goals and aspirations. We downplay our accomplishments, like they don’t mean anything or that they are not deserved.
What can we do to overcome this? Luckily, there are a few ways we can combat these feelings.
-Acknowledge it Own it and accept it. Once you wake up to the realization that you suffer from imposter syndrome, you can start to work towards accepting these feelings and learning to move past them.
-Realize that no you aren’t perfect, no one is Cut yourself some slack! Focus on the value you bring; not on attaining perfection. Perfectionism often goes hand and hand with imposter syndrome, where we think that if we aren’t absolutely perfect that we are somehow less than, or undeserving.
-Own your successes You didn't get lucky by chance, take note and ownership of your accomplishments. There is value in your work and in you. Remember that success does not mean perfection, you can still complete a fantastic project that had some hiccups along the way.
-Cease comparisons Stop comparing yourself and your work to others, it’s an act of violence against yourself! Even though someone else does it differently, or faster, or used another program to complete a task or project, it means nothing. If you completed the task/project and your manager/co-workers were satisfied, then it was a success!
-Remember, you are not alone Many people suffer from thoughts and feelings like this! Maya Angelou once said, "I have written 11 books, but each time I think, 'Uh oh, they're going to find out now. I've run a game on everybody, and they're going to find me out.'" Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet confided: "I'd wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and think, I can’t do this; I’m a fraud." Fellow actor Don Cheadle shared a similar sentiment: "All I can see is everything I'm doing wrong that is a sham and a fraud."
For more information on Imposter Syndrome, check out these youtube videos: Dr. Knatokie Ford’s TEDx Talk on imposter syndrome, https://youtu.be/J9PgY1mbPgM Lou Solomon’s TEDx Talk on imposter syndrome, https://youtu.be/whyUPLJZljE
How the Imposter Syndrome contributes to physician burnout
Resident Doctor Freaks Out - Imposter Syndrome