We're excited to welcome Kara Radecki to the MOB blog as she shares her thoughts on Imposter Syndrome and shares resources for overcoming it. You can learn more about Kara and how to connect with her at the end of the blog post.
I remember the night of the Ancora Therapy open house, almost two years ago. Our business had first opened and we were giving tours of our office and discussing our vision for the future (spoiler: there’s alpacas). I was sitting in Clark’s Bistro in downtown Hillsboro, enjoying some tasty truffle fries, sipping a drink, smiling as I met new people, and thinking “does this person realize that I have no idea what I’m doing?”
Although time has passed, business is flowing, and I like to think I’ve gained a bit of confidence since that open house- I still have my moments. What I was feeling (and still feel from time-to-time) is actually very commonplace among professionals: Imposter Syndrome. That nagging, doubting feeling in which one believes that someone will discover that you are a fraud.
According to an article in Forbes, the term was coined in 1978 and described as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”
Imposter syndrome isn’t only for therapists/small business owners. Graduate students, artists, those taking a risk in business, even children have demonstrated the thinking associated with this syndrome.
Maya Angelou even 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.’” It is common among high achievers and “perfectionists”. Although you won’t find Imposter Syndrome in the DSM-V, the “condition” is gaining recognition among therapist, psychologists, and life coaches.
My observation is that one group of individuals who seem to experience this phenomenon the worst is parents. As a therapist, I have yet to meet a parent who doesn’t try their hardest to be a good mom or dad for their child. But the majority are faced with the belief that they have no idea what they are doing and are genuinely shocked when the nurses at the hospital tell them to take their baby home after delivery.
The good news for parents and professionals alike- no one has any idea what we’re doing!
This is not to say that therapists shouldn’t stay on top of their continuing education or that parents shouldn’t learn how to do the baby Heimlich maneuver. But part of conquering Imposter Syndrome is, in part, normalizing that everyone feels lost at moments and seeking support is okay.
The first time I asked my sister for parenting advice and she laughed and said “I have no idea”, it was a lightbulb! I wasn’t alone and we all trudge along, trying to do our best. Therein lies the silver lining of Imposter Syndrome: You care. It’s a beautiful thing (and suggests that you don’t have narcissistic tendencies).
So where does Imposter Syndrome become problematic to the point that we call it a scary syndrome? When that fear of being “found out” prevents us from taking risks. Two years ago, I was scared that someone would realize that I had never run a business before. If I gave in to Imposter Syndrome, I could have called my business partners together and backed out.
There’s always that choice- struggle through the discomfort or give in. Folks in business may never present their innovative new idea. Artists may not send in that edgy submission to the magazine. Creators may never market their product and sign up for a craft fair. In short: Goals and dreams not realized.
And now, two years removed from that evening, it creeps in again. I was recently asked to do some public speaking on a semi-regular basis. My first thought was “there’s been some sort of mistake”. Then came a lot of judgment statements about myself, my skills, and the sanity of the person who asked me to help with this task. What do I lose if I let this opportunity fly by me? Maybe nothing. But maybe doing something uncomfortable is exactly what I need for my business to grow.
In the links below there is an assortment of helpful suggestions and thoughts about this epidemic. Some of my favorites from Forbes:
-Remember it’s about your value, not your perfection.
-Own your awesomeness
-Stop comparing yourself (they have no idea what they are doing either)
-Hold firm to ambition
Today, as I agree to do more public speaking- I’m going to own my awesomeness. I hope you will, too.
Good luck out there, fellow imposters!
Kara Radecki is a licensed clinical social worker. She sits on the Washington County Homeless Plan Advisory Committee and the HomePlate Youth Services development commitee, and has a passion for advocating for basic human rights and equality.
Kara views therapy as an opportunity to come alongside another human with curiosity, humor, and steadiness. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Emotion Focused Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and other modalities are used in an eclectic manner to tailor approaches to each individual client. Kara also offers licensure supervision to Oregon CSWAs with a heavy focus on exploring areas of counter-transference and developing each individual clinicians' therapeutic lens.