This keeps coming up in session, so here are my thoughts.
Let’s spend some time today unpacking the idea of therapy and what it is. I have noticed that for many people, there are too many unknowns for them to be fully comfortable seeking it out, and this is a shame, because therapy is an incredibly powerful tool that we can use to live our lives more fully.
I hear it all the time! “What do I need therapy for when I have friends and family who love me and want to hear what’s going on?” There’s a misconception that therapy is supposed to meet the same need that friends and family do. Having a strong social network is incredibly important, and frankly, even the most skillful therapy cannot replace these connections. But the opposite is also true. Regardless of how kind, and loving, and present your friends and family are, they aren’t a replacement for therapy.
But that doesn’t really answer our questions. What is therapy? What will it be like? And what is a reason to go to therapy? These and so many others are the ever present questions that prevent us from accessing all of the tools available to live the life that we want to have.
Think about the last time you were having a hard time. Maybe you were having issues in your relationship and you were trying to decide if you were going to try to make it work or move on. Sure, you talked to your friends and family about it! But your mom never liked him anyway. You’ve been together for 3 years and your mom still hasn’t moved past her first impression. You talk to your best friend about it, too. And it’s not that she isn’t helpful, she definitely lightens the mood. It’s just that drinking mimosas made the conversation veer off course. You felt a lot better after hanging out, you just didn’t have any answers. So you’re left to sort through all the fighting and the feelings by yourself, and you’re just as lost as you were a week ago.
The thing is that therapy isn’t just for people who have experienced trauma or have severe anxiety (although it helps for them, too). It’s also to help us learn more about ourselves so that we can make decisions that feel more authentic and move us closer to the life we want to have. Everyone, at some point or another, has a hard time sorting through confusing and often conflicting feelings. Even the best of relationships will have moments when you consider walking away, and every breakup, even those that are the healthiest comes with grief. Life is messy. And we don’t always take the time, or even know how, to sort through our feelings.
Therapy may feel like a big, scary thing, but it’s actually meant to help you feel more like yourself and make decisions that fit what you want out of life. Whether it is trauma, anxiety, life stress, or relationship challenges getting in your way, therapy can help you feel good about the direction you’re going. Here are ten things about therapy that can help you make a decision about whether or not it’s for you.
Keep reading for these ten things to know about therapy to help you decide if it’s time to try it.
CAN’T MAKE A DECISION
Therapy certainly isn’t for everyone, or for every situation. But it helps a lot of people with a lot of different issues. If you don’t know what it is then how can you determine if it’s the right thing for you in that instance? I’m a big believer in having enough information to make the right decision for you.
CONFIDENCE TO KNOW WHAT YOU NEED
The idea is to give you enough information that you can confidently move forward with your decision about how you want to move forward. Let’s get you enough information to be able to make a decision that is right for you, either to engage with therapy or not, but also to find a therapist whose style will really meet your needs.
TEN THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THERAPY
Therapy may seem a bit too mysterious for you to comfortably engage in it when you are struggling. The key to making solid decisions about when and how to engage in therapy is to know what you’re getting into and what you want to get out of it. So let’s take a look at ten things to know about therapy to help you make good decisions about if therapy is right for you right now, and if so, what you want it to do for you.
Check out these 10 things about therapy to help you make your decisions.
#10 You will build a relationship with your therapist
The thing is that therapy doesn’t work if you don’t feel safe with your therapist. They will be there while you are struggling. They will support you in learning about yourself and making sometimes uncomfortable perspective shifts, and we just aren’t open to this type of change if we don’t feel safe with the person in the room.
This may sound kind of strange, but often you will see your therapist for one focused hour a week. That’s more than you’ll see most anyone else in your life. Building a relationship will happen one way or another. If the therapy is going to be productive for you, it’s important that you basically like and trust the person guiding you through the process.
#9 Therapy should be uncomfortable, but not painful
This is so important. Therapy is not just idly chit chatting for an hour. There may be some chit chat in there, but it is punctuated with moments that are intense, or uncomfortable and challenging. There should be a good balance. This is part of what makes therapy different from just leaning on your friends and family. A therapist is going to find the spaces where you can grow, but not shove you into those spaces without your permission. Hence, therapy should not be painful. . .at least not for extended periods of time. If you trust your therapist, then you know that they are going to gently guide you through the hard stuff and get you back to a space where you feel back to yourself before you leave the session to do your life.
#8 Therapy should be focused
There might be some veering off in different directions, especially if you have a particularly difficult week that is unrelated to the issue that brought you in in the first place. But for the most part, there should always be a pull towards working on the issues that originally brought you in. Otherwise it’s hard to make any real, focused progress.
#7 Therapy is directed by you
Many people don’t realize that you are actually the boss in the therapy session. I am there to guide you and I will gently nudge you in a direction if I feel like it will be helpful, but you have veto power. We are there to talk about what is going to be the most helpful to you. Also, you know yourself and your family better than I do. You are the boss of your life. I’m just here to support you in uncovering what you already know about how to move forward.
#6 Therapy is best when you can be consistent
Typically your sessions will be scheduled for one hour a week. There are limited instances where you and your therapist may decide that sessions might be spread out a bit more or less than this depending on your specific goals. Your consistency in coming in to sessions will make a big impact on the speed of your progress. If there are sometimes multiple weeks in between sessions, there can be a lot of time spent just catching up about what has happened in the meantime, and that’s not a good use of your time.
If you are able to come consistently to your appointments, you will be more able to be consistently building on what you have been working on in previous sessions, and you’ll find that you are able to see more change more quickly.
#5 There are a lot of different types of therapy and therapists
You’ll hear this a lot. Therapy works the best when you find a therapist and a style of therapy that fits your personality and your needs. My personality and style works beautifully for a lot of people, but I am certainly not the best therapist for everyone. The way I think about mental health and relationship health heavily colors the way that I work, and this is true of all therapists.
For this reason, you may choose to try talking with a few therapists before you settle on the one that works for you. Most therapists will offer an opportunity to ask them questions and get to know them before you commit to sessions, and this is a great way for you to learn more about what does and doesn’t work for you.
#4 Some challenges take a long time to deal with, but others can be very short time
Every so often someone will ask how long they will need to be in therapy. And the answer to that is actually rather complicated. Honestly, it mostly depends on what you are trying to get out of the therapy. Do you have a stressful situation you need help navigating? That might take a few months. Are you trying to sort through a pattern you’ve noticed in your relationships that isn’t working for you? That might take a bit longer to sort through. This leads me into my next point.
#3 Therapy can help you make decisions, but your therapist isn’t going to tell you what to do
You are the boss. This is your life. You know more about your family, your life, and your feelings than I ever will. I will listen and be engaged. I might even have opinions (I’m pretty opinionated), but therapy isn’t about me telling you what to do. It’s about helping you get to a place where you can confidently make decisions that really serve your interest.
#2 Your therapist won’t judge you
Really though. If you feel judged by your therapist that is a problem. Everyone has weak moments. Everyone has aggressive impulses. Everyone has dark thoughts. Everyone thinks and does things they are not proud of sometimes. Therapy is about being really honest about what you are feeling and doing and identifying how to move forward in the way that is going to help you feel better. There’s no room for judging there.
#1 There is a therapist who will work with your schedule
I know you’re busy, and it can be hard to set aside the time for yourself. I get it. It can feel like the time might be better used doing something else. I would argue that if you took the time to take care of yourself you’d be able to make better use of the rest of your time.
But that aside, therapists work all kinds of weird hours. It is super likely that you will find someone who can work with your schedule. I mean, this is part of why I do online therapy. No one has to drive anywhere, and it allows for a ton more scheduling flexibility.
Making the decision to try therapy is a big one. It can take you some time to identify who would be a good fit, and get through the fear that might be stopping you from moving forward. Hopefully having some more information about what therapy is and what to look for might help you feel better about making a decision for yourself.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, let’s schedule a consult. I’d be happy to brainstorm with you about what you are looking for in a therapist, even if I’m not a good fit.
Email me today to get started.
I’m sure you expect that as a therapist, my advice is always going to be to talk about your feelings. But honestly, there are times when that just becomes exhausting and unhelpful. I’m a huge believer in talking about our feelings! When it’s going to be helpful. And a lot of the time it is. But how do you know if it isn’t?
Unfortunately, most of us don’t talk about our feelings enough.
And that’s definitely not good either. If you are upset about something or your feelings are hurt, it is 100% going to affect the way you interact with that person if you don’t hash it out. And I know, I know, saying 100% is quite the claim, but I feel confident in that assessment. Feel free to let me know if you’ve seen otherwise. . .maybe I’ll say 98% to be safe ;-).
So it makes sense that the majority of the time therapists are screaming from the rooftops to talk about your feelings with your loved ones.
Most of the time that is probably the right answer. It’s just that sometimes it isn’t.
Take this story as an example. Imagine that you had a really long day. Work was so busy that you barely had time to pee, so naturally, eating was out of the question. You drive home through traffic and you can almost feel your blood pressure rising. You breathe through your frustration, but despite your best efforts, you can tell that your nerves are fried.
By the time you get home you just want to shovel food into your face and sit down. But when you walk in, your husband doesn’t move from the computer. What you really want is for him to acknowledge your presence, and make some pretense of giving a shit that you may have had a hard day. But he doesn’t. He grunts from in front of the computer. Doesn’t even really turn his head. You feel a burning pit of resentment get stoked deep in your chest. Silently, you stomp your way into the kitchen without so much as grunting back, and find snacks. Halfway through the bag of pretzels, you realize that actually your husband is kind of cute. And now he is talking to you and asking about your day. Suddenly you realize that you may have been more hungry than genuinely resentful. Would it have been nice for him to be a bit more responsive when you walked in? Probably, but it certainly isn’t something that you feel you need to gripe about. Your day was already long enough, and he’s being pretty solicitous right now.
This is a prime example of a time that it would not have been helpful to talk about your feelings (especially not in the moment). You were able to move through the feelings quickly and easily, and while it might be helpful to say a quick sentence about greeting you when you come home, before you’ve eaten and after a long day probably isn’t the ideal time to do it.
And honestly, this is just one of many examples of times that talking about your feelings isn’t really going to make anything better.
So yes, most of the time talking about your feelings is the right thing to do. But if you’ve ever opened a can of worms that made things worse than when you started by trying to do the “right thing” and talk about your feelings, then you know this isn’t always the best thing to do. If you follow these steps, you will have an ironclad grasp of when it makes sense to say something, and when it might make more sense to just hold your tongue. When we figure this out, you will notice that when you do choose to talk things out, it makes much more of an impact, and then the rest of the time you can enjoy way more of the time with your people.
TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS FEELS LIKE A CHORE
The thing is, if you keep talking about every little emotion that flits across your consciousness, you are eventually going to burn out. For a while you might be able to keep it up, but it won’t be long before you decide that it’s too much work, and although it may be the “right thing to do”, you just don’t have the energy. The upside of this is that things that genuinely need to be talked about end up getting ignored because you used all your energy talking about how the dishes need to be placed in the dishwasher in a more organized fashion. This gives the real issues more time to fester, and no one wants that.
COMMUNICATING WHAT MATTERS
If you can talk about the stuff that really impacts your quality of life and relationship, you get to expend your energy on conversations that really matter. This means that you get to enjoy more of the time with the people in your life, and don’t develop festering resentments. You can feel closer to the people in your life, and feel good about the way you are standing up for yourself, too.
LEARN HOW TO TELL WHEN TO TALK ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS, AND WHEN TO LET IT GO
You may be feeling bogged down by the pressure of always talking things through. . .always trying to be open and vulnerable, and frustrated that you aren’t getting the results you want in your relationships. The key is to use your energy purposefully. That means learning when it makes sense to talk about your feelings, but also when it might make more sense to work through your issue on your own. Read on to learn easy to follow steps to determine when to talk it out, and when to wait it out.
ASK YOURSELF THESE FOUR QUESTIONS
The main issue here is that we are telling people to talk it out, regardless of the circumstances. Even good advice is bad advice if we aren’t talking about when and how to use it. It makes sense that you’re feeling exhausted by emotional discourse if you have no qualifiers to indicate that it’s the tool you want to use. So let’s talk about how to make sure that the energy you expend on being emotionally communicative actually increases your quality of life and relationships.
Question #1: How upset am I right now? Am I capable of having this conversation productively?
Here’s the thing, when we are the most upset is when we feel the most urge to talk things out. But there’s a problem. Maybe you can spot it. When you are the most upset is the exact time that you are the least capable of having a productive conversation. If you ask yourself how upset you are, and the answer is very, please, postpone this conversation for a time that you are going to be more emotionally available.
With my clients, we spend time identifying the signs and signals that we are beyond being able to productively communicate, and then we identify skills to initiate these conversations later on.
When you learn to discuss important issues only when you are emotionally available you will notice that your discussions (notice I didn’t say arguments) are shorter, less frequent, and more productive. Seriously. Do this.
Question #2: Who is this person that I’m upset with? Who are they to me and what is the nature of our relationship?
This one is a bit more complex to discuss. But the major point stands; if this person is very important to you and you have a close and important relationship, then they are worth more of your energy investment to keep the relationship healthy. If the person is not as close or important to you, it might be more of an energy drain to try and discuss the your issue. You may choose instead to either cut off the relationship, set boundaries that protect you without discussing the emotional information behind your decisions, or to change the nature of your interactions moving forward. As you can see, there are many different ways to handle a situation where you are upset by the actions of someone else. But here is the most important thing I’m going to say about it: not everyone is worth your openness, and not every relationship is owed your emotional vulnerability. I can’t tell you how often people try to have healthy, purposeful communication with people who just aren’t an important part of their lives. And usually it is not particularly cathartic or productive.
Together with my clients we identify what we want out of the relationship, and we do thought exercises about how useful we feel different types of communicating would be. This often helps my clients to hone their communication to be most appropriate to the circumstances. This helps my clients to feel confident and empowered when they are entering challenging conversations or handling uncomfortable situations.
Question #3: How long am I actually going to be upset about this?
One of my personal rules is to wait a good 24-48 hours before I talk about things I’m upset about so that I can determine if the thing still matters to me or not. If you are going to be upset about something for only a couple days, having a conversation that lasts hours might not be a good use of your time.
On the flip side of this, if you don’t talk through something but you still notice a shitty feeling every time you think about it, this is definitely not helping you or preserving your relationships.
Getting to know your unique “tells” for when something is going to bother you for a while versus when something is really just a minor inconvenience is something we can make some real progress with in therapy.
Question #4: How are you going to feel if the conversation doesn’t go well? What are the consequences?
Guys. . .this is so important. This isn’t even really talking about when it would or would not be advantageous to the relationship for you to discuss an issue or not. It’s more about taking care of yourself and making sure that you are going to be okay no matter what happens.
This is what I tell my clients. Consider your emotional state. Now walk yourself mentally through the experience of having an unsuccessful encounter. How are you? Are you angry and disappointed but you’ll take a bath and drink a glass of wine and get over it? Or are you devastated? Is this the kind of feeling that you will be able to process through in a matter of hours? Or is it going to take you days or even weeks to bounce back?
The thing is that even if it is the right thing to have the conversation, it doesn’t make sense to talk about it unless you know that even if it goes to hell you are going to be okay on the other side. That doesn’t mean that the outcome doesn’t matter to you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to feel good if it goes to shit, it just means that you’re going to be okay even if the conversation doesn’t. You can’t control the other person. That means you can’t control the outcome of the conversation. Having these talks is only the best option if you are in a place of strength inside yourself and you will be able to get through the hard stuff.
Learning when and how to talk about your feelings is honestly quite the task. Talking about things too much can be exhausting and unnecessary, while keeping your feelings inside can be really destructive both to your sense of self and also to your relationships. Learning how to differentiate is as easy as asking yourself four simple questions. Therapy can help you explore your feelings and relationships so that you can feel good about your choices to engage or not.
If you feel lost in how much to share in your relationships, I can help you sort through it. Email me today to schedule your free consultation.
Having social anxiety can keep us feeling isolated and left out. Although you may feel lonely, sometimes it is easier to just stay at home than push through the crushing social anxiety that makes the whole endeavor feel draining and uncomfortable anyway.
Unfortunately, when we allow ourselves to turn down social opportunities for the comforts of our own company, eventually the invitations become fewer and further between.
This can make you feel inadequate, or unwanted.
Now you’re not only spending most of your time alone, but feeling like you have no other choice.
You may have people that you used to enjoy spending time with, or people you used to feel comfortable with. But with every day that you spend away from them it starts feeling more and more uncomfortable to try and be around them. You have memories of really enjoying laughing and talking, but when they text you now, you feel paralyzed. It’s not that you feel that you wouldn’t like them, it’s just that you feel somehow like you couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations that they have of you being funny and entertaining. The pressure you feel to say or do the right thing and respond in just the right way makes your heart race and your palms sweat just thinking about answering them. Not to mention that you feel so rude for having not talked to them sooner that contacting them or responding to them now feels completely out of the question.
So you don’t. You think about them but you don’t call or text. They contact you and it’s so uncomfortable for you that you avoid the whole situation for days and then feel like an asshole and beat yourself up instead of sleeping.
Unfortunately all this does is reinforce your experience of yourself as unlikable, and when your friends inevitably stop reaching out as often, you see this as validation of what you always knew would eventually happen; they realized they didn’t really like you anyway.
Eventually you wind up in a place where you’ve decided you’re better off just spending your time alone. It’s easier, and there’s much less of a chance of getting rejected and ultimately disappointed. But the truth is that social interaction is really difficult for a lot of people. Many people struggle with wondering if they are good enough or likable enough. It’s okay to not always feel social or up for being around a lot of people. But it’s important to feel like you can spend time with people you like and care about if and when you want to.
It’s true that social anxiety can be debilitating, and it can impact every aspect of our lives. However, there are several things that can help us to feel more comfortable and confident in our interactions with other people, and our ability to maintain relationships with people we care about. When we use these top ten skills it is entirely possible to build up to the level and amount of social interaction that feels good to y
Keep reading for the top ten skills to overcome your social anxiety today.
SOCIAL ANXIETY IS MAKING YOUR LIFE HARDER
The biggest downside of not dealing with your social anxiety is that it affects every single aspect of your life. While having friendships and relationships that matter to you is incredibly important, you may feel more impacted by how your social anxiety keeps you from reaching your professional goals. At the very least you will find yourself agonizing over things that you feel should really not be that big of a deal. Living this way is exhausting, with every minor interaction feeling draining and overwhelmi
FEEL CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS
Although you struggle with social anxiety, it is possible for you to feel comfortable and confident in social situations of all kinds. When we use these top 10 skills to deal with your social anxiety you can learn to reduce the stress and anxiety that comes along with going to the grocery store, asking for a raise, and going out with friends. You have an opportunity to start making changes that will make it possible for you to have a completely different experience in all social settings.
TOP TEN SKILLS TO ACHIEVE FREEDOM FROM SOCIAL ANXIETY
You may be feeling overwhelmed by the constant barrage of social interactions in your day to day life. The key to feeling more comfortable and confident in social interactions is to give yourself small, manageable steps to take towards the changes you want to make and learn to give yourself permission for things to not go perfectly (because if we’re going to be honest, when do things ever go perfectly?). Take a look at these 10 skills to see how you can feel more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.
Check out these 10 skills to see how you can start feeling more comfortable in social settings of all kinds.
#10 Break it Down into Small, Manageable Steps
A lot of the time when we are saying that we want to be more comfortable in social settings, what we mean is that we want to be able to call up a friend and go to lunch without a twinge of discomfort. The thing is, that for a lot of people this might as well be asking yourself to run a marathon. It’s not that it isn’t possible for you in the future, but it isn’t super realistic for right now. Right now a good goal might be to text someone you haven’t spoken to in a while but think about regularly. There doesn’t even have to be a goal in the interaction beyond reaching out, so just sending a text saying something like, “Hey, hope you’re doing okay!” is good enough.
When we hold ourselves to standards that are unrealistic and expect that we are going to be able to do more than is reasonable when we aren’t ready, we are setting ourselves up for failure. We always want to be working just barely outside of our comfort zones, and this is how we expand what is possible for us.
#9 Give Yourself Permission to Bail
This is exactly what it sounds like. Maybe you promised yourself that you were going to send that text but when push came to shove it just didn’t feel possible. Give yourself permission to make the decision to not send the text. If you don’t give yourself permission not to do it, one of two things is going to happen. Either 1, you’re going to spend the next week and a half beating yourself up for being a failure and feeling like there’s no hope for you (which is patently false and unhelpful) or 2, you’re going to send the text, but the experience is going to be so uncomfortable and unpleasant for you that you immediately think something like, “I am never going to put myself through something this horrible ever again.” I think you can see why that doesn’t progress our goals.
It’s important to make the experience as positive as possible so that you can continue to push your boundaries.
#8 Redefine Success
So maybe you decided that you were going to send that text. You sit down, stare at the name of the person you want to talk to in your phone, start typing out the message. . .and then put your phone down and walk away. Many people might determine that this was a failure because the text wasn’t sent, but I don’t agree. Today, you came much closer to reaching out to someone than you have in the recent past. You actually made action steps towards making social contact. This is something to celebrate! Eventually, we want you to be able to send that text and even to do more, but right now, you did something that was uncomfortable for you.
It’s really easy to decide that since the outcome of the effort wasn’t what you had envisioned it would be the effort was wasted. But since for the most part you have no control over outcomes, only what you do (and don’t do), we need to celebrate your actions instead of outcomes.
#7 Ask for Support From Safe People
This requires that you identify who safe people are to you and what makes them safe. Sometimes just identifying a safe person is the difficult part. But if you do have one person who makes you feel comfortable or at ease, and you know that they support you and understand your social anxiety, that’s a great person to ask for help.
Help can be defined differently for each person, and this is something that can be explored more in therapy. But maybe for you help might look like them sitting with you while you type up the text. Maybe they can be someone you are accountable to when you tell yourself you are going to go through with something. Maybe you just need someone to talk to about how and why these things are so difficult for you. Regardless, having some emotional support can go a long way.
#6 Breathing Exercises
I know it sounds trite, but if you give yourself permission to do some deep breathing before (or during or after) you do something that is difficult for you, you may be surprised how much of a difference it makes. This is especially true if you are prone to panicking (or even panic attacks). Part of what is happening when you are panicking is your breathing becomes fast and shallow and it kicks in the part of your brain that makes you feel incredibly unsafe. As we said above, it is very important that every time you decide to push your boundaries you feel as safe as possible. It will also make you more successful more often, and it will help you think clearly so that if you decide that you want to bail, it can feel like a grounded decision instead of giving up.
#5 Find a Coping Strategy
This is similar to doing breathing exercises. If you are able to find something that you can do that you can get lost in that helps you feel calm and safe, see if you can incorporate it into the task you decided you are trying to do. For instance, if we are staying with texting someone you haven’t seen in a while, you may want to make yourself a mug of tea to smell and sip while you are typing it out. Maybe there is a specific song that usually makes you feel calmer and more like yourself. Maybe you feel better after exercise, so doing push-ups every so often through the endeavor would help you stay calm.
Whatever it is that you decide to do, the idea is that it is something you can do when your anxiety or stress is just BARELY starting to increase. You want to catch it before it gets out of hand if at all possible.
#4 Exit Planning
I’ve noticed a theme in the work I have done with clients who have social anxiety. Oftentimes the client will indicate that they feel like once they’ve made the decision to call someone, or go somewhere, or interact somehow they feel completely trapped and like they have to participate fully and can’t change their minds. In my opinion, this is a really big problem. It makes the stakes too high and makes it so that making the decision to try is tantamount to trapping yourself in a bad situation.
So if you decide you are going to participate, maybe it’s best to take your own car. It’s probably best to set expectations that you may have to leave early. It might be helpful to make sure that you give yourself explicit permission to step outside, even if it is the middle of a movie, or a dinner. It is better to leave at an inconvenient time (and know ahead of time that you get to and you know exactly how you are going to do it) than to not try to go at all because you don’t want to feel trapped.
#3 Bring a Comfort Person
. . .or pet. . .or object. This would obviously depend on where you are going and for what purpose, but if you get really stressed at the grocery store, see if there is someone who can come with you to help keep you grounded. If you get nervous about going to the park or a local restaurant, see if you can find one that is pet friendly. If you are going to a social gathering or a work get together, maybe there is an object that helps you feel grounded. Some people get a lot of use out of worry stones, other people find that bringing something that smells like home (like lotion) might be more helpful. Whatever it is for you, the idea is to prime yourself to feel safe and calm by bringing someone or something that helps you feel safe and calm into the space where you are uncomfortable.
#2 Take Time to Re-Charge
As you start to develop more comfort with social interactions, you may find that you enjoy challenging yourself. I have seen SO MANY PEOPLE burn themselves out because they were starting to feel more comfortable and didn’t allow themselves time to rest and recuperate. Although pushing ourselves is necessary if we are ever going to create real change, it is just as important to give yourself time to rest and re-build your strength so to speak.
#1 Celebrate Small Victories
This is the most important skill in your arsenal. You are going to have lots of small victories and plenty of disappointments on your road to feeling more comfortable in social interactions. It has been in your life for a long time and it is going to take some time for you to be able to work through it. No matter what it is that you have decided you are going to try to do, if you take any steps towards that goal it is closer than you were before. Furthermore, just considering making the changes is literally changing your brain to make these experiences more and more possible for you. Celebrate every victory, because every tiny step you take brings you closer to your goal.
Learning to feel safe and comfortable in social settings can feel freeing and exhilarating. You absolutely can learn what it feels like to accept an invitation without thinking, or to meet new people without second guessing every single thing that comes out of your mouth. I can help you to determine what your goals are, and what a small step towards your ideal outcome might be. Together we can help you get free of your social anxiety.
Click “Get Started” to schedule your free consultation today.
Like it isn’t hard enough to do the things you need to do and juggle all of your responsibilities, doing all of those things while feeling like an incompetent fraud definitely doesn’t make it easier.
Impostor Syndrome can get in the way of success at work, cause issues in your relationships, and cause you to miss out on opportunities.
When we live our lives trying desperately to hide that we don’t feel good enough, or that we don’t feel we deserve the trust that has been put in us it makes everything harder and makes us feel more isolated. We start to feel like we need to fake our way through and just hope that no one catches on.
When you feel like you have to hide from the people around you it gets really hard to build close relationships and communicate openly and effectively with the people who love you. You end up feeling like you can’t share anything about yourself, especially not anything that might make you feel vulnerable; you know, like feelings. And I don’t know if you’ve had this experience but it’s really hard to build relationships and get our needs met when we don’t talk about feelings. They’re kind of a big deal.
Living with imposter syndrome is like always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
We start to feel like there is impending doom that we are barely missing. When things go well we say, “Phew! That was lucky!” and when things go to shit we say, “I hope this isn’t when everyone finds out what a fraud I am,” and we feel shame.
Maybe for you it’s the easiest to see at work.
You’re the person everyone comes to when they have questions, and you’re regularly lauded as being one of the best at what you do. You always turn in your projects on time, and they are always of exceptional quality. At least that’s what everyone else says about them.
You would think that being celebrated so often would help you feel more confident.
It seems reasonable that you could breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that you are appreciated and valued by the people who work with you.
In the moment when you are getting the positive feedback it feels like a huge relief, like you got away with it.
But the pressure immediately starts mounting again.
What if you can’t pull it off next time? What if you can’t keep this up? Surely someone is going to find out that you aren’t as good as everyone seems to believe you are.
This just turns into a cycle where you hold yourself to higher and higher standards to meet what you perceive as the expectations of the people around you. It leads you to be extra critical of yourself and sometimes you find yourself taking it out on other people, too. The shot of adrenaline and level of fear that you feel every time you think about a deadline is dizzying.
You get to a point where you either throw yourself into the projects at the expense of everything else in your life in an effort to make sure it’s “good enough” or you procrastinate the hell out of it.
This is stressful not just for you, but it takes you away from your family and all of your other priorities. But you try not to think about that too hard because it just turns into something else to beat yourself up about.
The truth is that it’s not just you who feels like they always have to hide so as not to be found out as a fraud. This is actually a fairly common experience. We forget that often even the people we really look up to question themselves and don’t trust in their own capabilities.
Being able to accept compliments and feel like it really applies to you is not a function of your actual capabilities.
It’s okay to have a hard time accepting compliments, and it is okay to have a hard time trusting the way that the people around you see you. But the experience of Imposter Syndrome doesn’t have to take you away from everything else that is important to you.
Living with Imposter Syndrome is incredibly challenging, and can make even the smallest project you take on feel out of your depth. Luckily there are skills you can use to limit the influence Imposter Syndrome has over you so you can feel excited to take on new challenges instead of worrying so much. When you implement these skills you will feel calmer, more confident, and more connected to the people around you.
Keep reading to learn the top ten skills you can use to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check.
When “fake it to make it” doesn’t work anymore
The worst part of living with unchecked Imposter Syndrome is that you can never relax. You are never going to feel like you’ve fully proven yourself and doing well actually makes you feel more pressure.
You’re in a double bind; you feel shame if you mess up, but you feel shame if you do well, also, because the positive attention feels undeserved.
At the very least you find yourself dreading projects and avoiding putting yourself in a position where you might be critiqued.
Living this way is just not sustainable. How are you supposed to find and invest in projects that are engaging and fulfilling to you if you are limited by avoiding putting yourself in a position to be seen by the people around you? But agonizing over the small details of your presentations long after your family has gone to bed doesn’t feel like a good option either.
Remain calm, confident, and collected
Although Imposter Syndrome has a hold on you now, you have the potential to feel confident about your abilities, and capable of engaging in each challenge as it presents itself without holding yourself to extreme standards.
When you use these top 10 skills, there is a possibility for you to feel calmer in the face of deadlines and presentations, more confident in your skills and abilities, and more capable to making empowered decisions about how much time you want to invest in projects and how much should be invested in other things.
You can absolutely experience compliments as sincere, feel calm and confident before deadlines, and trust in your own abilities.
Top Ten Skills to Feel Calm and Confident
So you may be feeling like you have to fake your way through and just hope that you don’t get found out right now, but you don’t have to feel that way forever.
The key to be able to feel calmer and more confident is to use these clear steps to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check
These changes are small and manageable, and not nearly as hard to implement as it may seem in the beginning.
Check out these 10 skills to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check, leaving you calm and confident.
10) Be nicer in the way you speak to yourself
You would be surprised how often you are telling yourself what a lazy piece of shit you are. If you really paid attention, it is probably happening close to constantly. We can talk more in future blogs about why we do that, but all we need to know for our purposes today is how important it is to practice noticing so that you can start to speak to yourself more kindly.
Although you may not be consciously listening to the litany of insults you inflict on yourself on a daily basis, they are absolutely affecting the way you experience yourself and your capabilities. If you can start to interrupt some of this negative talk, you can begin to chip away at your Imposter Syndrome.
9) Stop comparing your experience of yourself to the way you see everyone else.
It is so easy to look at the people around us and feel like they have it all together. They look calm and confident and capable, and everything seems like it comes easily to them. I can tell you with complete confidence that the people you are comparing yourself to have challenges and question themselves just like you do. They’re just not telling you about it.
When you notice yourself comparing yourself to someone else, take a quick moment to question the validity of your comparison. You don’t have to stop immediately (that takes some time and effort) but just gently wondering if your perception might be distorted will start to do the trick.
8) Allow yourself to question if everyone is really expecting the level of performance from you that you expect from yourself.
When you notice yourself putting the pressure on yourself to do the same level of performance as last time or to blow everyone out of the water again with whatever project it is that you are currently working on, take a moment to question who it is that expects that level of performance from you every time. My guess is that when you really sit down to think about it, you’ll realize it’s only you who expects you to be so good. Everyone else gets that you’re human.
This is an important step in order to start recognizing that your Imposter Syndrome is internally created and internally driven. You can’t lie to yourself anymore and say that everyone in your life just needs you to be perfect, because this is way more about how you perceive yourself than it is about how anyone else sees you.
7) Define “good enough”
Often people will tell me that they’ll quit being so hard on themselves once they are able to get to that magical place called “good enough”. I have never met anyone who has actually visited this mystical land. You know why? Because it’s a moving target.
If you sit down and actually try to define what “good enough” would be, you are going to start recognizing how impossible your standards for yourself are.
6) Schedule time for self care
I know. There are too many important things to do before you do that. I know. It feels like a waste of time, or you’ll do that after. But after what? I am willing to bet that you have said that to yourself before, and then something else came up.
It’s a trap! You have to take care of yourself now. This is when your life is. And I’ve said it before and you’ll hear me say it over and over again, your productivity will actually go up if you take care of yourself. I don’t like appealing to your inner perfectionist, but I’ll do whatever works!
5) Schedule time with friends and family.
This is not very different from scheduling time for self care, but I list it separately because it’s a different kind of important. Nurturing your relationships is not only good for you now and in the long run, but it will help you have fewer regrets when you get older. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen.
Your kids are only this big for so long. Your friend’s lives are changing, too. They matter to you, and part of having a good work/life balance is making sure you get to be a part of the things that matter to you, regardless of anything else that may be going on.
4) Set your priorities
If you can sit down and really identify what is important to you, you can use your time more effectively and work towards giving yourself a pass when you don’t give it 100% in an area that doesn’t mean as much to you. You cannot give 100% in every aspect of your life. Something has to give and something will slip through the cracks. This is a really common problem I see, is people want to do exceptionally well in every aspect of their lives, and then the spread themselves so thin that they lose sight of what is really important to them and the things that really matter fall through.
That is not an encouraging experience. Take a moment. Write a list. Figure out what is most important to you, only one or two things. Then go after those things. It will feel more manageable and more possible right at the outset.
3) Talk more about your feelings
Especially to people you trust, who love you. Life is hard, and it’s even harder when we’re trying to do it alone. Talking about your feelings with people you trust can not only help you feel less alone, it can be really good for the people in your life to see that you’re human, too. Remember what we said about comparing ourselves to what we see in other people? Think what you’re showing your kids. Do they know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed sometimes, or are you teaching them that they are supposed to be stoic? Food for thought.
2) Practice mindfulness and relaxation exercises
I’m not going to bullshit you and say that moving through your Imposter Syndrome is always going to feel good. It’s not. The end result is worth it, but that doesn’t mean that not giving in to the compulsions to do more and do it better and make sure that you did it “well enough” is going to be comfortable. It’s going to be anxiety producing and you might even feel guilty for not “trying hard enough”.
Those mindfulness and relaxation skills are really going to come in handy to help you be strong enough to get through those moments without giving in to the temptation to just try harder.
1) Remember, you are not as good at fooling everyone as you’re giving yourself credit for.
I love this one. It’s probably my favorite, because it’s so obvious but none of us seems to think about it. If you feel like a fraud all the time, who is just masking his true ineptitude and shame, doesn’t that mean that everyone around you has been pulled into this sham? But there are people you love and respect who spend quite a bit of time with you, aren’t there? So even though they think you are awesome and smart and capable, you still think you’re just faking them out.
Something’s not adding up. Either the people you like and respect are easily made fools of, and they’re not as cool as you think, or you’re not as good at pretending as you think you are. Which one is true is for you to decide, but think on it.
Learning to keep your Imposter Syndrome in check can be liberating. You can absolutely learn to feel calm and confident. I can help you get there by implementing these skills, and taking it further by learning where the Imposter Syndrome is coming from and healing that.