Imposter Syndrome

I’ll be honest: sometimes when I see comments on my posts that say, “you’re such a good mum!”, my gut reaction isn’t pride or empowerment…it’s doubt. My anxious mind will invalidate the comment and think something like, “if they saw the dishes in my sink, they wouldn’t say that!” Even though self-criticism and doubt might seem normal, these thoughts could actually be a symptom of imposter syndrome. When we feel undeserving of appreciation or compliments for our contributions, our minds can create the idea that we’ll be “found out” for being imperfect. Imposter syndrome can tear down our self-worth and create intense anxiety. All parents are at risk of developing imposter syndrome, so it’s important to be aware of this pattern of thinking and learn some ways to overcome it.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a type of disordered thinking that can cause people to feel like they aren’t as successful or capable as others might think. Even if there is plentiful evidence of their success, people with this type of thinking feel like a fraud.

Unhealthy thoughts consistent with imposter syndrome might sound like:

  • “I didn’t really deserve that raise. I just got lucky.”
  • “My mother-in-law is visiting tomorrow, so I need to stay up all night and make sure everything is perfect so that she sees I’m deserving of my partner.”
  • “They didn’t really mean that compliment, they just feel bad for me.”
  • “Other parents know how to handle all of this. I’m just clueless.”
  • “If people knew that I got frustrated with my kids today, they would think I’m a terrible mother.”

According to Psychology Today, developing imposter syndrome is common in people who already have personalities that lean towards perfectionism and anxiety. Feelings of “imposterism” can arrive after a big success (like receiving an award or getting a promotion at work) or after a failure that follows a big string of successes (like getting into an argument with your children after weeks of peaceful parenting).

Imposter syndrome is very common, and it affects a majority of adults at some point in their lives. So, what should you do if you realize you are having these unhealthy thoughts?

Addressing Unhealthy Thoughts

Some ways to tackle imposter syndrome are:

  1. Recognizing the Issue
    • Learn to recognize those unhealthy thoughts, even if you’re not ready to deal with them. Make a note in your journal or in your phone’s notes app when you are feeling like a fraud. Later, you can go back and see if there is a pattern to what’s causing those thoughts.
    • Let a trusted friend, family member, or counselor know that you’re feeling this way. It will help to be honest about it!
  2. Watching others Work
    • Whether you’re feeling like a fraud at home or at work, it can help break your perception of inadequacy if you see others doing your job. Sometimes we can have an impossibly high bar for ourselves that might move down if we see others doing a great job while still making mistakes.
    • Be honest with others that are in your position. Let them know that you’re feeling unsuccessful at work or at home and ask them how they tackle those feelings. Chances are, they’ve felt the same way!
  3. Track your Accomplishments
    • As people prone to perfectionism, it can be easy to focus on our mistakes. Become more aware of your successes by creating a visual tracker of things you’ve done that make you proud. Have a great conversation with your kids? Leave a sticky note on your mirror to remind you of that interaction! Finish all the chores you needed to do on Monday? Make a note of that as well! This can help you visualize all of the positive contributions you make.
    • See this article from Cleveland Clinic for more.
  4. Challenge your Unhealthy Thoughts
    • When you notice a thought of inadequacy, don’t let it float by without a challenge.
      • For example, if you notice yourself thinking, “I bet all of the other mums handmade their snacks for the class party,” don’t let your thinking spiral in a bad direction. Pause and remind yourself why that thinking is inaccurate. Maybe you had other priorities the night before! Maybe cooking is not an important skill to you! Maybe you just need to remind yourself that there are probably tons of store-bought snacks at the party.
      • Don’t let the negative thoughts come and go. Challenge them!
    • See this article from Healthline for more.

The most important thing to remember is that you also won’t be perfect at tackling imposter syndrome! It’s a long process that you’ll have to repeat over and over again throughout your life. And just in case no one has reminded you lately: If you love your children and try to do your best for them each day, then you are a great mum!

xoxo Fil

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