Updated: Sep 20, 2019
Have you heard of "Imposter Syndrome"? I hadn't when I was in medical school. Or residency.
Imposter syndrome or phenomena is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internal fear of being exposed as a "fraud". It was first described in 1978 by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in the article: "The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention." They described imposter syndrome as "an internal experience of intellectual phonies, which appears to be particularly prevalent and intense among a select sample of high achieving women." So what does that mean? Despite objective evidence of success, women, especially in medicine, commonly have a pervasive belief that they are intellectual frauds and fear being recognized as impostors.
See if any of these examples fit you:
1️. You rock at something, and someone compliments you. Your response, "I got lucky."
2. You get elected chief resident or AOA and you think to yourself, "These people obviously don't know me. I must have them fooled."
3. You start medical school convinced that everyone around you is amazing and smart, and that you didn't deserve to get in. They must have made a mistake in the applications process. That you do NOT belong.
Initially, imposter syndrome was defined in WOMEN, high-achieving women to be precise, and was thought to only exist in women. Since then, studies have demonstrated imposter syndrome in both sexes. It is more common in high-achieving individuals. And it can be BRUTAL if you cannot recognize it, call it out, and stop it.
Let me share with you the things the "imposter syndrome"
voice tells me:
You’re a bad doctor.
You never should’ve gotten into medical school.
You fooled everyone into thinking you were smart enough to be Chief Resident.
You really didn’t know anything at all.
You should have known the answer to the resident's question.
You should not be teaching anyone.
You are not smart enough.
You’re a bad stepmom.
You don’t care enough.
You work too much.
You are not there enough.
You are not loving enough.
You missed ANOTHER crossfit.
You can't balance your schedule.
You are not skinny enough.
You are not strong enough.
You are not good enough.
You are a failure.
So how do we combat that haunting voice?
1️. Recite a mantra
I use #PobodysNerfect - a mantra from a high school friend - pobody's nerfect.(or if you must... nobody's perfect). The Pinterest photos that we have in our head are not real life. Every moment of our life may not be "Instagram-worthy". Regularly, I remind myself that perfection is not possible. It does NOT EVEN EXIST. Instead, I work on creating my BEST life every single day by embracing the chaos and the challenges. By not comparing myself to unattainable standards set by social media, society or others.
2️. Make the voice STOP. I find a way to turn off that voice - the voice saying telling me that I am not enough. Because let's face it, most days, I am enough. And if I'm honest some days I’m even amazing. So how do you turn off that voice? Trust me if I had it perfected (which we now know doesn't exist) I wouldn’t be writing this. Some suggestions. Start by saying "I am enough. I am enough. I am enough" repeatedly until you start to believe it. But up post it notes to remind yourself that you are enough, and even better - that you ROCK! And one of my favorites- try running through your WINS in your head. Let me explain. At times, I remind myself of all of my victories and my successes. I remind myself that these successes came because I AM capable. I am worthy. I worked hard enough. I put my best effort forward. And I AM successful. Find a way to keep your winning reel accessible for you. Keep a list of your wins and successes on your cellphone in the notes app. Keep a drawer of physical reminders that you can pull out and show yourself when that voice won't stop telling you you are not enough. Find the things that remind you that you are AWESOME and use them to shut up that voice!
3️. Drown it out. Sometimes, that voice just KEEPS going. It's like the Energizer Bunny! On those days, make yourself a really good playlist that reminds you that you are a baller. Sometimes you just need to jam out to remind yourself that you really do kick some butt. Make yourself an "I'm a Rockstar" Playlist ASAP and don't be afraid to crank the stereo all the way up.
What you do you do combat your "Imposter Voice"? I'm eager to hear...