perfectionism

Top 10 Ways to Keep Your Imposter Syndrome in Check

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.

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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.

Call me now at 888-242-9345 to schedule a free consult.

How a Perfectionist Was Able to Let Go of Perfection and Take More Risks

They told it to us all the time when we were kids; there is no such thing as perfect. But it didn’t stop you from trying, did it? Even though you know how unattainable it is, you just can’t stop yourself from striving for it in all aspects of your life.

But not only are you finding that perfection doesn’t exist, but you’re starting to notice that while you’re out chasing it, life is going by and you’re missing it.

The whole point of you trying to do everything so well is to live your best life but in your search for perfection, you’re missing out.

You find that when you are so honed in on the details of things going the way you feel they need to, big things are slipping through your fingers, and you just can’t seem to figure out the balance.

You actually start to find that you are so focused on being perfect that you end up feeling paralyzed by the thought of making decisions, even small ones. Suddenly you find that instead of helping propel you forward into the life that you want, your perfectionism is keeping you trapped and isolating you from the people you love.

That’s when you start to feel discouraged. Because you can’t move forward without agonizing over every detail of every decision and it’s too much. You want to stop and smell the roses, but instead you’re too focused on thinking about a small mistake you might have made the other day, or an interaction you wished you’d handled differently.

A lot of my clients experience this and I’ve seen it play out many times with slight variations, but some of the themes are typically the same. Often clients are saying that they want what is best for their family, and they want to make sure that they live up to their own potential. If this requires long nights, or extra thought put into projects and financial decisions, then so be it.

At the time they feel like the constant stress and anxiety is worth it because it keeps them “in line”. There’s a belief that the agonizing and the constant self criticism is somehow increasing productivity. They believe that life can only be managed by overseeing every minute detail, and that without their oversight and input, things would come crashing down.

But by the time the client is seeking help from me, they are becoming increasingly aware that they can’t sustain this pace and this level of oversight long term.

The idea that if we can just be good enough so that nothing will go wrong, or make such good decisions that things will just smoothly transition to our next goal is a lie. Because things will always go wrong. What you can control is how much time and energy you are going to waste before you deal with the inevitable obstacles in front of you as they present themselves.

Eventually my clients find themselves in a place where they feel like things are falling through the cracks no matter how tightly they try to hold on. They start to believe at once that they do have the power to make things “good enough” if they were just competent enough or took care of things “correctly” and also that they are failing and doomed to continue to fail because they don’t seem to be able to realize the potential everyone around them sees but they themselves cannot see in themselves.

Here’s the thing, if you hold yourself to the standard of perfection, you are doomed to fail.

Because you’re never going to be able to prevent obstacles always make the “right decision” (I’m not convinced there is such a thing as a “right” decision, but that is a debate for another time). The things you are worried about are real. They really do matter. You aren’t crazy, and you aren’t blowing things out of proportion. It’s just that the way you are interacting with yourself around it is not helping.

It’s good to have goals. It’s necessary to have standards. And the wisdom and resourcefulness that my clients show in the face of adversity is at times astonishing. I just don’t think the many sleepless nights and the time spent away from family supported them in getting there.

Perfectionism can be isolating and deeply discouraging. It can make you feel stuck because every decision feels monumental and the weight and responsibility is too much. When we see others overcome something similar, it can inspire us to make the changes we need to be kinder to ourselves and embrace life’s chaos from an empowered place. When we take similar steps it is entirely possible to overcome perfectionism.

Keep reading to see how many of my perfectionist clients start to be able to engage in more self compassion today.

Trapped in Your Own Mind

Before scheduling a session, oftentimes my clients are struggling with feeling like there is just not enough time to do everything, and certainly not to do it properly. There are so many things that need to be done, and my clients rarely feel that they can lean on the people in their lives to get it done for one reason or another. Small things have started to fall through the cracks and meanwhile the client’s self care is at an all time low.

My clients often describe to me long rumination sessions where they beat themselves up for mistakes that the people around them say don’t matter. Often they feel like everything is riding on their shoulders, and if even one thing were to slip through the cracks the whole farce is likely to go up in flames.

My clients often feel like impostors in their own lives.

That even though the people around them see them as nothing but capable and competent, they can’t seem to feel this way about themselves, and instead spend all of their time trying not to get found out.

Living this way makes it hard to connect to their friends and family, and often my clients will describe feeling lonely, even when we are able to identify lots of friends and family members waiting in the wings to step in and help.

Before scheduling a session, many of my clients describe that their romantic relationships just never seem to last. They find someone and in the beginning everything is great, but over time they find that their partners stop being responsive.

When it comes to friendships, although my client often has many friends, some of these friendships are exhausting. My clients often hold themselves responsible for taking care of their friends, and feel intense guilt when they are not able to be there in the way that their friends are asking for. But when my client needs something, they don’t feel comfortable asking, lest they be a burden. In this way, many of my clients notice that their friendships are not totally reciprocal.

My clients often have difficulty leaning on others, because it is very scary for them to depend on others. They learned when they were very young that if you are not in control, or if you are at the mercy of another person, you will not get your needs met. This belief permeates their social interactions.

Right before my clients often schedule, there is usually some life event that throws into perspective that the work and effort they have been putting forth has not been building into what they want for themselves. Sometimes it is a breakup, other times it is just a realization that they have lost an opportunity because they were so bogged down in details.

The realization that another opportunity was missed because they were busy being paralyzed by the decisions they face day to day was a game changer.

My clients describe that this makes them feel impotent, and incompetent.

Basically, it feeds their belief that they are an impostor or a fraud in their own lives.

My clients make the decision to schedule a session because they are tired of beating themselves up and not getting anything for it. They are tired of rehashing conversations from days ago and then not being able to focus on what is real now. More than anything, my clients just want to be able to live, unencumbered by these unrealistic expectations.

On the first session, it is really common for my clients to express some variation of, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I shouldn’t feel this way, my childhood was great.” They express a deep set experience of feeling not good enough, and terrified of making a bad decision or showing to the world how deeply flawed they are.

Together, in the first session, we will often explore important relationships from childhood and how these might have set the stage for relationships now. We explore unconscious beliefs and needs that might not have been met, even with parents who were caring and thoughtful, and sometimes with parents who were not.

By the time they leave the session they often feel as though they finally have a framework with which to understand the feelings they have been struggling with (but not able to articulate) for most of their lives.

They feel like there is a plan to move forward, because finally they are starting to understand that these behaviors and experiences they have been dealing with make sense given the environment they grew up in and their past experiences.

As we continue to work together, my clients often start to organize the challenges they want help with. Yes, they want to be able to move through their days more confidently and with less second guessing, but also they want to feel more capable at work, and not hold themselves so responsible when things go wrong. Instead, they want to be able to trust that they will be able to handle challenges increasingly more gracefully.

We identify and sort through all of the issues the client is experiencing and we identify actionable steps that we will follow with reasonable and manageable goals. This way the goals will start to become more accessible.

By the time my clients leave a session where we do planning, they start to feel like their next step forward is accessible, attainable, and real. We do a lot of work to make sure that whatever it is that we are trying to do that week, it feels tangible and close.

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Building Confidence and Learning to Take Leaps of Faith

When my clients and I sit down to work together, we start the session very conversationally. We will check in, and see how their week has been since we last spoke. Sometimes there will be some communication issues to solve, other times there will be some new ways to think about a challenge that might be helpful.

Often we will trace current challenges back to early relationships so that we can understand what is underlying the feelings that can be so confusing.

Once we know where the feeling is coming from, we can identify ways to respond to it.

We will discuss things like how to use mindfulness to make an actual, real difference in the way each day feels. We will analyze problematic situations and practice identifying new and different ways to engage with them.

My clients typically attend therapy weekly. Slowly but surely they start to notice that they are able to forget that they are supposed to be berating themselves. They have more experiences of being able to respond authentically and this is naturally starting to create more intimacy in their relationships.

My clients and I outline ways to measure improvement. Often this includes the level of discomfort and procrastination involved in tasks. How many times did you proof read it before you sent it in? How long did you sit in your car hating that you had to do it before you got out? And equally as important, how long did you ruminate about how you could have or should have done differently before you caught yourself and were able to use mindfulness to move forward with your day?

My clients will often say that they will know that things are getting better because they will be able to do things better, more effectively, or more efficiently.

I challenge this because it is another expression of the perfectionism.

I will tell my clients that we will know that they are getting better because they are less focused on things happening a certain way (outcomes) and they feel more capable of taking leaps of faith and trusting that their future selves will be able to handle whatever happens.

There are a few different types of therapy that I like to use. I think mindfulness is helpful for everyone, and has specific applicability here, because we want to move from “thinking” and endlessly analyzing into “being” and moving through each moment. I also like to use Gestalt therapy, which lets me bring the raw wounds from the past into the room now.

By bringing something into this moment, we can heal it.

Mindfulness is very heavily supported by the research as a way to help people overcome anxiety and depression. It actually teaches your brain how to focus on what is right in front of you, but the Gestalt helps us to deal with what is right in front of us.

My favorite way to get results for perfectionist clients is to teach them how to have self compassion. It’s honestly a beautiful experience to witness someone learning to treat themselves as worthy.

After several weeks of therapy, typically the client is able to recognize that they have more awareness of when they are getting stuck up in their heads, and they are starting to have scattered success with interrupting the negative thought cycle. They are able to engage in small tasks with less discomfort, and handle small mistakes more gracefully. My clients will often realize they start to feel more relaxed in their relationships and that they can communicate a bit more openly.

When it’s time to end therapy, my clients can tell because they are engaging with their lives more freely and comfortably. They can trust themselves to deal with challenges instead of needing things to go perfectly. By our final session, they feel excited to take on their lives.

Mindfulness and Self Compassion Will Help You Overcome Perfectionism

Perfectionism has been running your life, but you can absolutely make choices about where and how to use your energy.

Now that you’ve seen the relief other perfectionists are able to experience, you can follow in their footsteps.

You have the ability to engage in your life trusting not that things will go the way you want them to, but that you will be able to handle challenges as they come. You can feel confident and relaxed.

Letting go of control can be invigorating.

You can engage in your life from a place of poise and confidence.

I can help you to engage with your life in a way that can give you the emotional freedom to take risks.

Call me today to schedule your first session.