Ever feel like no matter how hard you try, you don't quite measure up to your own expectation, even if you've had successes in life?
You're not alone, and that notion of feeling like a failure is referred to as Imposter Syndrome.
People wanting to avoid being associated with Imposter Syndrome, or "perceived fraudulence," try even harder to succeed but never achieve their impossibly unattainable benchmarks in life.
Seeking advice from strangers online, Redditor FossaRed asked those who might be familiar with the phenomenon the following question:
"'Impostor syndrome' is persistent feeling that causes someone to constantly doubt themselves and their abilities, despite evidence, and fear that they may be exposed as a fraud. Reddit, do you feel this way about work or school? How do you overcome it, if at all?"
Although everyone has different strategies, there were good points made that could apply to one's specific mental hurdles.
"One of the best advice I have received about imposter syndrome is that it all comes from comparing yourself to others. Don't compare your blooper reel to someone else's highlight reel."
Powering Through It
"Haha, f'kin daily, my dude."
"I don't know if I really overcome it. I power through it and ignore it, but that self-doubt is always there. Any misstep reinforces it."
Accentuating The Positive
"Jesus, that's my entire day in a nutshell."
"One thing about imposter syndrome for me is that I end up working twice as hard as anyone else. The sense of not feeling like I deserve this just pushes me to work harder and submit higher quality work when compared to my peers. So I suppose there's an upside to it , since I never take what I have for granted, I never slack off and submit bad work."
Jumping to conclusions when being called by a boss for a meeting was common among these Redditors.
Prepared For Termination
"I had to tell my boss to text me that I wasn't in for discipline when he sent those messages. I always think I'm gonna get fired when I'm called there. Never happens. Haven't had a discipline meeting in 10 years."
The Surprise Twist
"I got a call telling me that I needed to come down to headquarters two hours away to have a talk. What was the soonest I could come?"
"I made time to go down that week. Stressed. Mentally preparing for the worst."
"They wanted to thank me for all of the great work I had done and wanted me to become an owner along with the two of them."
"Whenever I have a review or some such at work (yearly, quarterly, whatever) I think 'this is the day they drop the axe' but they always tell me I'm doing good and to keep it up."
"Like, really, you're sure this is my review? Do you know who I am? So they give me another client and a raise. I don't get it; of all the f'ked-up things management does, this is the most inexplicable."
These Redditors recalled thinking they had no business being in an enviable position.
Shaking Hands With A Legend
"Without going into details, I found myself at a small private event shaking hands with Paul McCartney being thanked for the work I did getting the event off the ground, so to speak."
"I'm standing in the room with the fruits of my labours (objectively I know I did a good job looking back on it) and all I can think is sir I am a poor dude in an ill fitting suit, what business do I have shaking your hand."
Meeting A Prime Minister
"I also experienced this impostor syndrome a few times before. Once, I met the Prime Minister of Peru, some cabinet ministers, senators and high ranking Generals."
"The whole time I kept thinking: what the f'k am I doing here? i post memes in Reddit."
A Leading Expert
"I'm the same."
"Professionals in my field contact me regularly to ask me questions. Each time I think 'This time, someone is going to figure out that I have no idea what I am talking about.'"
"It turns out that in my field I am one of the leading practitioners, but half the time I am wandering around in dazed bewilderment wondering how the bloody hell I got here."
Altering perspectives seemed to be an advantageous tactic.
It's Not Real
"I took the horseshoe approach: I realized everything is fake. It came back around to normalcy."
Minimizing A Stigma
"I think people have a really negative perception of 'fake it till you make it' as some how being disingenuous or deceitful. But as you point out realizing everyone else is faking it while you are faking does help the world to feel normal."
"It does begin to become terrifying when you realize that like everyone is faking it to a degree, but it is a comforting terror."
According To One With A PhD
"Worked with a PhD holder a few years ago that once said, 'when you get your Bachelor's Degree, you think you know everything. When you get your Master's, you discover that you don't know anything. When you go for your Doctorate, you realize nobody else does, either.'"
"I try to keep that perspective."
I haven't personally experienced Imposter Syndrome but I understand how perfectionists are especially hard on themselves when they think they haven't reached a benchmark in their lives that should be much higher, according to them.
I would offer that they should take a moment and look back and realize how far they've come to get to where they are now.
Not everyone's accomplishments are the same, which is why I believe comparing yourself to others on social media is a dangerous trap.
Focusing on the accomplishments thus far might be the best motivator without exerting too much pressure on yourself.
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Self-esteem is our overall sense of worth, value, and how much we appreciate ourselves. Our self-esteem impacts our self-confidence, feeling of security, sense of identity and belonging, and our feeling of competence.
A low self-esteem can keep us from reaching our full potential. A whole lot of things can cause feelings of inadequacy, like poor childhood experiences with parents, failing grades, financial or relationship issues, or ongoing mental or physical health issues.
However, there are certainly ways to raise your self-esteem even when you're struggling.
Redditor Notsofastboe asked:
"How did you achieve higher self-esteem?"
Hopefully, we can take a few pointers from those who were able to achieve high self-esteem.
Everyone has their own thing going on.
"A few things."
"Being asked at a CBT class if anyone had gone to a restaurant or fast food outlet. Some of us put our hands up. We were then asked to describe who else was there. Of course we couldn't."
"Giving up smoking. At work a fellow smoker wished me the best of luck. Next day offered me a smoke."
"Going to my local shop for years and always buying the same thing. Then one day I asked for "the usual' and the lady on the till, who had served for years, had no idea what I meant."
"Which all took away the feeling that people are talking about me or judging me. Everybody has their own thing going on. So stop worrying and enjoy your life."
"I like the realization of 'The usual, please' means a lot less to them than it does to you. Good to have learned from those experiences! I know I did."
"Like my father always told me: everything YOU think people think of you, is stuff YOU made up yourself."
"Absolutely true. Part of CBT is about 'mind reading.' The exercise being looking at a bit of film with no sound and guessing what was going on. We all got it completely wrong of course."
"You just don't know."
Get out of that toxic relationship.
- "Getting out of that toxic relationship I was in for eight months"
- "Finding new hobbies and growing my hair out"
- "Realizing that I can be myself without worrying about anyone disapproving of me, celebrating being single"
- "Listening to my own music, appreciating my own art, realizing that even if I hate some things about myself, I have so much to look forward to"
"Also 4 is the best way, Is such a great feeling to be happy with your own work."
It's a process.
"It's like an iterative design process."
"You start by one day deciding on a project, in this case caring about yourself."
"So you start on a rough draft. This can be little things like making sure to brush your teeth, eat well, or get some exercise. Small things, not huge changes. These are taking care of yourself in little ways, setting the groundwork."
"Eventually you start to feel a bit more confident, and you add more to the design. You might realize you don't like exercise routines, so you find a hobby you do like. You slowly take better care of yourself and find more things you like about yourself. You find a passion, something you like and are confident in, and embrace it."
"Eventually, you learn that loving yourself matters more than what others think. You may drop some of the attempted ideas along the way, but the goal never changed. You made yourself better and learned to love yourself."
Tricking your mind into believing it's true.
"I think the whole fake it till you make it thing is what worked for me. I still struggle a lot with self esteem but after trying to act more confidently and putting myself outside of my comfort zone I kind of saw that heaps of people are doing the same thing."
"I've opened up about my insecurities to people and have been surprised about the amount of people who have related and shared similar stories, many people who I had assumed had everything figured out."
"A large amount of people in society find it hard and weird navigating this weird world we live in, even the most confident people that you run into have probably got their own sh*t they feel awkward and self conscious about."
Don't believe what toxic masculinity will tell you.
"I use to think I was ugly all my life, seriously low confidence. It wasn't until I saw a girl on Omegle around my age who told me I looked cute did I achieve an extreme higher self-esteem in myself."
"A little tip for people, don't listen to toxic masculinity, the truth is most men are so insecure about themselves that one little positive comment about basically any attributes to them could hold a special memory and boost their self-esteem."
Seek approval from yourself, not others.
"One thing I took time to focus on was rather than trying to please others, I tried pleasing myself first."
"When cooking a meal for my family, I'd cook once beforehand to see if I liked it. Adjusted it to my tastes and then I cooked for everyone (eventually, it was a hard step) and I knew that because I liked it, it must be decent. Lo and behold they all loved it!"
"Once you stop seeking affirmation from other people, and look to yourself, you realise you're worth a LOT more than you give yourself credit for."
"Other people have also commented some good points, but the long and short is you just need to please yourself. Pleasing others comes as a by-product of being good to yourself and kind in general."
Just being yourself.
"By not giving a sh*t and being me."
Though it may seem like a difficult thing to achieve, higher self-esteem comes with time and dedication to yourself.
You're worth that time and energy.
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Redditor Guilt-Ridden After Calling Cops On Mentally-Ill Woman Who Was ‘Violently’ Banging On Their Door
Mental health symptoms and disorders are incredibly common. Thanks to a global pandemic, mental health issues are at an all-time high.
But somehow, mental health is still a taboo subject for many.
Historically, mental health disorders have been thought of as demonic possession or witchcraft. On a global scale, this caused talking about mental illness strictly off-limits.
This silence around something so common is fluctuating between that taboo and normalization.
Redditor beholdtheblackcat asked:
"Therapists, what is something people tell you that they are ashamed of but is actually normal?"
You may find that something you are worried about is on this list.
It's normal to feel relieved.
"Mixed or even positive feelings when a loved one dies after a protracted illness. Especially someone who hung on for a long time, very sick and suffering, or an older relative with dementia. There's often a feeling of relief, of 'at least that's over'. It's perfectly normal and it doesn't mean you didn't love the person."
"My cousin recently passed from a lifetime of illness starting with a premature birth, then cancer, then an endless string of issues."
"I miss my cousin, but I'm glad she doesn't have to put up with it anymore.'
"No longer suffering is a big one, but I also think care giver burnout is a big part of that relief feeling."
"I think people often feel guilty because they're relieved that their caregiving role is over as well. Society likes to act like you should be the energizer bunny and happy to either finance a loved one's care or physically take on the task of caring for them. It's perfectly natural to feel burnt out, stressed, angry, trapped, etc... when you're in that situation. Feeling relief that it's over and your life can return to normal doesn't make you a bad person or in any way tarnish the very real sacrifices you made to care for your person."
"Yup. I've learned this personally and try to use it whenever dealing with someone else going through a loss. You experience a whole range of emotions when a loved one dies, and you should never let others tell you or even imply how you should be feeling. My mother died of cancer and of course I was very upset, angry, devastated, sad. But I also felt very relieved and almost happy it was over, because watching her decline towards the end, especially in the last few days when she was barely lucid, was absolutely terrible. And in the actual moment that she died, the strongest feelings I remember having were just how surreal and bizarre it was. I was ashamed of those feelings at first, but I came to realize I shouldn't be and they're completely normal."
"Death is very surreal, and we as humans are terrible with dealing with it. As societies, we often hide and suppress the realities of death. And at the same time, we romanticize it in a way. We're very prescriptive about how it should be and how people should feel about it, but death rarely looks like it does in the movies and it never really feels like it either."
Even therapists feel this.
"I've had patients describe their impostor syndrome in great detail, and are genuinely surprised when I say everyone feels like that, myself included sometimes."
"As another therapist with imposter syndrome, 100%."
"I'm sometimes afraid if I don't think I have imposter syndrome I'm just fooling myself and others."
"I never felt imposter syndrome until I started my new career last year."
"They actually sat us down to explain that at some point you will feel this way and to lean on your colleagues, managers and the employee mental health program for support."
"Sometimes it still doesn't feel like enough."
"I work for a software development company as a support guy. I've been trying to skill up my coding to cross over and a few of the devs specifically mentioned imposter syndrome to me. They are both awesome devs and they both at one point felt like they shouldn't be doing what they are doing."
It's okay not to know.
"That they do not know what they enjoy doing. Often they have people in their life, including therapists, say 'Try to do something fun today,' or ask, 'What do you like to do when you have free time?' Many people I work with do not know what those are. Once I explain that I dislike these statements/questions because they assume people should know the answer, and that many people don't, I can watch as they relax, take a deep breath, and say something to the effect of, 'Oh my, that's so good to hear. I have no idea what I like to do. That's part of the problem.'"
"More often than not they feel like they should know and that everyone else their age has it figured out. They are embarrassed to say that they don't know when in fact not knowing is very common. I couldn't even try to count how many clients I've had this conversation with."
"I'm not a therapist, but I mentor at risk youth and marginalized professionals (I'm a black woman myself, who also used to be an at risk youth), and I've encountered this quite a bit. I usually suggest to them what I did when I realized I had the same problem years ago: What did you enjoy doing as a child? What were your dreams as a child? Is there any reason you can't pursue one or both of them now as a hobby or even have that as a professional goal to work towards (if applicable)?"
"It usually helps, and suddenly they're like, 'Man, I always wanted to learn to play tennis...' and we find a free MeetUp for them to go to. Or they say that they used to like model cars, so they go grab a cheap set so they can try it out. It's always low-commitment so they can quit if they find they don't enjoy it anymore. The only way to find if you like it is to do it - often our busy schedules (or if you have it like I do, our depression/mental health issues) are gonna tell you it isn't worth it or that it's going to suck. To try that, give it a try on two or three occasions. If that doesn't work, try another thing you used to like! But the only way of finding that out is doing it"
"For me personally, it was that I used to love playing video games. So I went back and got some of the games I always wanted growing up, but couldn't because my family was poor. I had so much fun (and they're also cheaper now 😂)!!! Got me back into gaming again, and now I find "retro" consoles at thrift stores and buy them (I'm upset that the GameCube is considered retro now, but I digress haha), as well as new games. I'm also doing art again and starting a number of hobbies I wanted to do as a kid."
"We may grow up, but a lot of our sadness and u fulfillment comes from our inner child calling out to us. If you haven't had a great adult life, or childhood, or anything like that, you can be the parent your inner-child needs. Pick up some yarn for like $2 at the store - you can weave a blanket with a cardboard loom! Go get them that soap-making set they always wanted and just try it. You can even start with a cheap one! Or go get them a piece of candy they used to like. Go to the beach (by yourself if you want to!) and build a sandcastle. Take care of yourself. This life is supposed to be fun; Humans NEED some kind of happiness to live and keep going, and we don't have to wait until we retire, or even spend money to do that."
Your abuse should face consequences and it's okay to have mixed feelings.
"Feeling conflicted when a caregiver who abused them is exposed/faces consequences. Many express feeling bad for them because this person abused them but they also took care of them, provided for them, etc. I always try to tell them that what they're feeling is normal and understandable but that the abuser needs to face consequences for what they have done."
Intrusive thoughts are common.
"Having intrusive thoughts (thinking about steering into oncoming traffic is a popular one). Also, when they're talking about inner dialogue people fear I'd consider them psychotic."
"For those interested or struggling with intrusive thoughts I highly recommend The Imp of the Mind by L. Baer. It's well written and has some great exercises. Regarding inner negative dialogue Breaking Negative Thinking Patterns by Gitta Jacobs is generally considered to be a very practical self help book. They're no substitute for therapy obviously but I think both can benefit any reader."
Another therapist shared the same thing, so it must be incredibly common!
"Having really f*cked up thoughts. Intrusive violent or uncomfortable thoughts are very common, i.e. call of the void. For most they are a passing thing like 'oh that's weird,' but for some they get stuck and people judge themselves for them thinking there is something wrong with them."
"I want to encourage you all to reach out for help. There are treatments, both with and without psychopharmacology, but you need to find what works best for you with the help of professionals."
"I will share a mantra that has helped me throughout my life, both as a therapist and as someone with OCD."
"I am the observer of my thoughts, not the manifestation of them."
"I love you all and wish you all the very best!"
Regretting having kids should be talked about more.
"They regret having kids or weren't instantly attached to their child when they were born. It's a lot more common than people think, but the subject is extremely taboo and is not often is discussed due to the shame and guilt that comes with it."
"I mentioned having these feelings in a supposedly 'safe space' once. I had no idea people could be so over-the-top mean and cruel in their replies. It was deeply traumatizing and I never mentioned it to anyone since."
"A work colleague opened up to me about this last week, kind of out the blue. He told me he was jealous of me for not having kids nor wanting to have them."
"I truly didn't know what to say."
"The way he was talking about it, something tells me he might be going through some hard times these days and might not have someone to talk about it."
There are so many things that we don't talk about because it's taboo or we are afraid that we are alone in this. In reality, not talking about these things have actually made us more alone.
If there's something you're going through, talk to a therapist. It might be more common than you think.
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