The Impostor Syndrome. A psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments (big & small). Not an actual disorder, the term was first coined by Pauline Clancy & Suzanne Imes in 1978 when they found that extremely high achievers with Imposter Syndrome, do not consider themselves bright, despite their outstanding academic & career achievements. They internally believe they rose to high positions due to external factors, luck, connections, fooling others; and not as a result of their skills and talents. I see this more often than not in my practice. Many of the accomplished women who come to see me call their success “good luck.” I see this also with successful men-it affects both genders.
Individuals who fall outside of majority of a group (i.e. marginalized individual) are one group that tend to feel like “Imposters.” But how does it affect people in recovery? People in recovery are highly stigmatized and our socio-political approach to treatment has been awful (think war on drugs).
An example of how it affects you is, perhaps you are newly sober, and realizing that being sober is really hard, day-to-day hard. Maybe it’s a year from now, you’re still experiencing sadness, guilt, anger, definitely anger. You’re thinking, “You know what? I suck at being sober. I’m still looking for that escape hatch. I’m no good at this.” Impostor syndrome is not really a diagnosis, however it is something that is very normal and that everyone feels. It’s that constant feeling of insecurity, self doubt, fraudulency.
It will strike perfectionists or high achieving individuals. You are on the daily grind, you’re a working mom, you have a high demanding job, you come home, and you drink just to numb out. You think to yourself, “Wow, if people only knew,right? If they only knew that I don’t have it all together. I’m actually a big, hot mess.”
One way to spot impostor syndrome is the individuals that compare themselves to others and have done so their entire lives. Some people believe they are successful because they compare themselves to others, and work to out-perforn others. But that can backfire when you didn’t get that promotion, or maybe you weren’t recognized for an award that you thought you should have received. Then you start to feel like, “I’m not that great; I’m a phony. I’m not as smart as everyone says that I am.” So, does this sound familiar? What can you do if you do have impostor syndrome?
Write a curriculum vitae, roughly translates to your life’s work. Write it on paper. Write all your accomplishments down so whenever you start to have that little inner voice that’s critical and is not serving you, pull out that piece of paper.
Imposter syndrome is more normal than you think. It affects everyone from Presidents to High School students. It’s rarely discussed because no one wants to share their “secret.” But when one person does, there is a collective sigh because people can feel like “It’s not just me.”
Disclose your feelings to a trusted friend, colleague, teacher. They know your worth, even if you cannot see it clearly at that moment.
Whether you’re newly sober or are just trying to keep it all together, the imposter syndrome will not go away on its own. And, the feeling, if left unchecked, will erode our self-worth. Don’t let it!
If you are struggling with impostor syndrome and you do need more support, please go ahead and contact me here.
Contact me now for your free 15 minute phone consultation. Traditional counseling sessions are offered in Richmond, VA. Virtual or online sessions are available worldwide.