How’d I get here? Doubts rising, uncertainty looming, anxiety suffocating, confidence shattering. Close your eyes, Dawn. Inhale….exhale…inhale…exhale.
Have you ever found yourself suddenly hyper aware and uncertain with a new opportunity or responsibility? Maybe you’ve become overwhelmed with the thought of being an inspiration or role model to your family, friends or colleagues. Pride and a sense of accomplishment sets in and this new found leadership and skill set then motivates you to push forward and upward. Suddenly and without warning, you experience a sense of dread and panic. You question and discredit your achievements; the pressure to not fail leads to stress and depression; and you begin to feel that you’re not worthy of your new job title or leadership role and that someone else is more qualified to take your position.
That good ol Imposter Syndrome. Always there when you need it the least.
Through my career as a massage therapist, PT aide, Family Massage Instructor and soon to be Student Physical Therapist, I have experience this phenomenon more than once. Taking on various leadership and educational roles, in addition to changing careers after 16 years comes with its share of insecurities and self doubt. Fortunately, I’m now able to recognize the symptoms of Imposter Syndrome before they take root and I can counteract accordingly. I also have a phenomenal network of trusted individuals to turn to when such an episode strikes. Additionally, I’ve developed coping mechanisms to prevent my mind and emotions from wildin’ out. My methods for contending with impostorism involves 3 steps.
Sounds simple enough, right? However, when stress is a factor, your breathing may become short and labored. This can then lead to increased panic and anxiety. Slow, deep breaths can help reduce your fight or flight reflexes by slowing your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure and promoting relaxation, while also lowering your anxiety. Closing your eyes while breathing deeply adds an element of meditation and introspection that is vital for grounding yourself mentally and emotionally.
2. Remember Your Journey
What tangible or intangible things did you surrender to reach your goal? What personal development took place in order for you to brave taking on your new role? What events or opportunities led to your current success? How did you motivate or inspire others throughout your journey?
Thinking back on my last 5 years of prepping to apply to physical therapy school, I sacrificed sleep for late nights of studying; reduced quality time with family and friends; and worked two jobs to pay out of pocket for classes. When I reflect on and compare my past and present strengths and weaknesses, I appreciate how my successes and failures were instrumental in helping to attain my current professional growth and maturity. I also fondly think back on how I’ve helped others be it through blogs I’ve written; helping someone solve a problem; or listening and holding the hand of a patient that is pain and in a vulnerable emotional and physical state.
Mentally going down your list of experiences and actions should affirm that you are an active participant in your success and it didn’t come by chance or luck. Therefore, you deserve to be in the position you currently hold.
3. Use a Lifeline
If breathing, mediating and going down memory lane isn’t enough to quell your fears and insecurities, then it’s time to call on your person or persons. Be honest and tell them how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking. Even just hearing yourself say that you feel like a fraud or imposter can be cathartic. With this confession, your support team should immediately laugh at the thought and commence to nourish and feed your self esteem; recalling accounts of how you overcame an adversity, solve a problem or how you inspired them or others with your words or actions. Calling your life line should give affirmation that the memories you recalled during your journey were not fabricated. It should aide in vouching for your strength of character, work ethic, experience and leadership skills. Also, it just feels really good to hear people say nice things about you.
With that said, go forth and be great! Have courage, take action and don’t allow your doubts and fears to rid the world of what greatness you have to offer, disappointing the people who need you. If you happen to stumble, fall and fail along the way, sadly, it comes with the territory of success. Use that experience as a learning opportunity for personal and professional growth. Insecurities may arise every now and then, but that is only a sign that you’re challenging yourself and breaking out of your comfort zone. Embrace that challenge and meet it head on with all the courage and strength you can muster. I believe in you.
If you would like to empower someone else reading this blog today, please comment and share a moment that you felt like an imposter and how you overcame it.