Who Do You Think You Are? 8 Tips to Beat The Imposter Syndrome

Have you ever had that feeling like you’ve fooled everyone in the room into thinking you’re good at what you do? Maybe you just got a promotion and you think, “This is a mistake. Jones should have gotten this promotion. I didn’t do anything to deserve it.”

For the longest time I would look at my doctoral diploma and wonder how the hell did that get there? Haha, I sure fooled them! Only it’s not funny. It feels awful.

My friend Rob Dee, writer, fly fisherman and depression survivor, wrote this comment on a post a while back, To Build Self-Esteem: Take a Compliment. He said:

I like reading your stuff because it always makes me think.

As an example, I write mostly for myself and if I can help people along the way, then yay me. I really don’t consider myself a writer at all, let alone a good one. Of course one thing I strive for is for people to enjoy reading my stuff, whether it be about fishing, suicide or working out. Writing for myself helps me get it out. Why does it make me uncomfortable when people tell me how much they love reading my stuff and how much they consider me a good writer? Why do I feel like a fraud? It used to be the same way when I played in a band that used to travel overseas too. Signing CD’s,and hanging out with and taking pictures with fans is what I strived to do, but when it happened, it made me feel odd. Why is that?

Feeling like a fraud can hit the best of us. Therapists are not immune, at least not this therapist. On and off throughout my life I have wrestled with that feeling Rob describes, the “If only they knew I’m not that person they think I am,” feeling. By the way, men feel the sting of imposter syndrome as much as women, trust me on this. We’re just more vocal about it.

You won’t find Impostor or Fraud Syndrome in the DSM-IV, that bible of psychiatric diagnoses. It is not a diagnosable mental illness. It is, however, a collection of feelings or symptoms that together may serve to hold you back from fulfilling our potential. Imposter Syndrome is when our self-esteem is fragile or low to begin with and then we achieve some success. Our old core beliefs that kept us questioning our self-worth in the first place, goes in to over-drive. The critical voices that kept us feeling low, “You will never amount to anything,” denies the achievement. Success doesn’t necessarily cure a low-self esteem. It just gets translated into, “You still don’t amount to anything. You just fooled everybody into thinking you did.” Imposter Syndrome.

Does this sound like you? Take this Impostor Syndrome Quiz:


Celebrate National School Counseling Week!

National School Counseling Week 2012 will be celebrated from February 6-10 to focus public attention on the unique contribution of professional school counselors within U.S. school systems. National School Counseling Week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association, highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career.

via www.schoolcounselor.org

The school counselors of my kids’ school district are awesome. My husband and I have gone to them several times for help and they have always stepped up.

The first time was when my son was in second grade. At the time my mother and father had moved into our home while she received palliative care for pancreatic cancer. My house was Grand Central Station as my brothers and sisters rotated through from their homes in other parts of the country. We thought my son was doing great handling all the chaos at home. Little did we know his frustration was just going underground. When his teacher expressed concern, I made a bee line to his school counselor. Right away I knew my son was in good hands. Together with the school psychologist, she was able to give him the opportunity to process his anger through play therapy.


What to Do if Your Teen is Cutting

Depressed girl

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Dylan Broggio, LCSW, EWN therapist.

Finding out that someone you love is cutting themselves is very painful, shocking, information to hear. Being armed with information and a game plan can make all the difference in getting your loved one help.

What is cutting? Cutting is when someone purposefully injures themselves, but is not trying to committing suicide. Essentially, cutting is a way to deal with pain. Teens and young adults report they cut in order to cope with or relieve emotional pain, or to “feel something” when all they feel is numb. Marks or cuts are typically kept well hidden so that they can continue this way of coping with their emotions.

14% of teens report engaging in self injurious behavior

64% of those teens are girls. (Ross and Heath, 2002)

If you suspect your teen is cutting here are some warning signs:

  • Cut, scratch, or burn marks on arms, legs, abdomen, etc. They can be anywhere on the body, but are usually in places that can be well hidden.
  • Finding sharp objects (knives, razors, safety pins/needles, tacks, broken glass) in your child’s room or belongings.
  • Your child’s friends are cutting themselves is a reason to be concerned.
  • Your teen wears long pants or shirts consistently, even on warm days, as this conceals the evidence.
  • Often insists that she be left alone and private when upset or depressed.

Here is what you can do to help your teen:

  • Take your child to the hospital if injury is bleeding significantly or requires stitches. Otherwise a call or trip to their pediatrician is a good idea.
  • Connect with a mental health professional who is qualified and specifically trained in treating self-injury. If they are not experienced with this, they should have no problem referring you to someone who is.
  • Listen. Listen. And listen some more. As hard as it is, hear what your child has to say.
  • Let your child know you love them, and that you are there for them.
  • Participate in your child’s treatment. Often support from family and family counseling are necessary for a successful recovery.

Parents, it is important NOT to freak out. Despite how you’re feeling, try to keep your cool. Yelling, demanding they stop, will NOT help the situation. They are not doing this to make you mad, or to be spiteful. Your child is in pain and doesn’t know how to deal with it. Take a deep breath, and express to your child that you will do what it takes to get them help.

To learn more about self injurious behavior, visit WebMD’s Mental Health Teens and Teens’ Health. These books may be helpful as well: Cutting–Understanding Self-Mutilation and When Your Child Is Cutting: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Overcome Self-Injury.

If you are a teen who is cutting, you may have come across this article looking for help. Here are some tips for you:

1. Overcome your fear and ask for help. The adults in your life who love you want you to feel safe and you aren’t right now. Tell a parent, teacher, counselor; find an adult you can trust and be as truthful as you can.

2. Be picky about your therapist. Find a counselor you feel comfortable with so that you can be honest and frank with them. That way you can begin to identify the triggers that cause you to cut, and begin working toward solutions.

3. Allow your family to support you. They will help you get through this and they will benefit, too.

4. Know that there is treatment out there that can help. You may be skeptical, but give it a try, you might be surprised!

Remember, treatment is very successful. Your teen will find better ways to deal with emotional pain and your family will benefit, too. So teens, speak up, let an adult you can trust know, so they can help you begin to find relief and feel better. And parents, with your love and support, you can be a great instrument in your child’s recovery.

Are you a parent with experience that you can share? Do you have any questions? Comments? Please let us hear from you.

Dylan Broggio, LCSW is a psychotherapist with Explore What’s Next. She specializes in work with adolescents, adults, couples and families. To schedule a free consultation with Dylan call 734.474.6987 or email at dylan@explorewhatsnext.com.

6 Reasons Why I Snapped My Husband’s Head Off

This is me writing. I have to write because there is so much on my mind it will drive me crazy if I don’t put it down somewhere.

The day before yesterday I snapped twice. Once at my daughter and again at my husband. Getting mad is one thing, snapping out of control is another. My family was stunned. Seeing me overreact in anger is pretty rare; they gave me a very wide berth. I couldn’t stand their questioning eyes. I went to bed. Why the hell was every little thing setting me off? My life was full of positives. A growing business, healthy family, my son home from college, what was there to feel stress about?

After getting an email from my husband I could think clearly again. Here are six reasons I came up with:

1. Expanding my business. Any entrepreneur worth their salt knows that the transitions between slow growth and sudden growth can scare the bujeezus out of you. When opportunity knocks, you don’t turn it down but one decision necessitates another and another, all of it needing immediate attention, until suddenly you had better put on the breaks or an avalanche may ensue. The world is littered with the carcasses of small businesses that expanded to soon, too fast, too much. I do not believe I am making that mistake but still the stress of keeping my galloping horse from running away with me takes a lot of mental effort.

2. Too much socializing. Homebodies, last weekend was highly unusual in that we hosted or attended parties four nights in a row. Two of them were planned, the other two impromptu invitations that we couldn’t refuse. All were fun, with good people whom my husband and I enjoy. But geez, did they all have to get bunched together like that? I need my down time. Now watch, there won’t be another invitation for months.

3. Not enough time with my little family. Because of the above and because my kids are young adults now and have active social lives of their own I felt deprived. We usually set aside time to just be the four of us, even the kids are sensitive to our family time. Only with all that crazy socializing it didn’t happen on the crucial weekend right before….


Dare to Let Your Light Shine Brightly

Morning on Haleakala by Ken Schwarz.It’s funny how we trip over the same bits of wisdom over and over again. It’s like the Universe knows we’re a bit slow on the uptake so it keeps bopping us on the head just in case we missed it the first, second or third time around.

That’s how I felt the other day when I was channel surfing, putting off doing laundry, and ran across the movie Akeelah and the Bee, (2006). Eleven year old Akeelah was being tutored for a spelling bee by Dr. Larabee. He had a quote mounted on a plaque in his office. Akeelah read it out loud:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. ~Marianne Williamson

Dr. Larabee: Does that mean anything to you?

Akeelah: I don’t know.

Dr. Larabee: It’s written in plain English. What does it mean?

Akeelah: That I’m not supposed to be afraid?

Dr. Larabee: Afraid of what?

Akeelah: Afraid of… me?

We are taught to be afraid of ourselves, afraid of our own brilliance, by people who love us, who had the best of intentions. “The world is a dangerous place.” “Life is hard.” “Don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed.” “If you expect the worst you are prepared for the worst.”

Sadly, the result of all this fear inoculation isn’t toughness, it’s just more fear. Where is the hope in this? It’s hard to see.

That’s why I love Marianne Williamson’s quote. She just rips that blind fold right off. It’s a good lesson to learn over and over again, as many times as it takes to sink in, to undo the archaic lesson of fear.

Let’s not hide our light under a blanket. Let’s throw off the constraint of low expectations put on us by others. Let’s dare to be as great as we know in our hearts we can be, as we are.

If we give ourselves a moment to listen, we will finally learn the truth in this.

The divine spirit within us tells us so.

Photo courtesy of Ken Schwarz via Flickr

3 Reasons Why EWN Does Not Do Ads

Earlier today I discovered someone had hacked into my Twitter account and left an advertisement for a diet supplement as if I endorsed it. Yuck! This stealth commercial got under my skin so badly I had to write about it immediately (see below). Why get so upset? The ad, which stayed up for all of maybe seven minutes, wasn’t for smarmyhookups.com or tacky knitwear. Once everything was right with the world again, I mused on why it bothered me so much. Here are a three possible reasons:

1. The Explore What’s Next brand was built with a vision that our relationship with our reader comes first. For over four years we have been dedicated to providing helpful, quality content about relationships, anxiety, depression… just about anything about living in this complex stressful world. Advertisements, which makes money for the website that hosts them, changes the very relationship we’ve worked so hard to build. My opinion.

2. The only products endorsed here are EWN services, starting with a FREE 30 minute consultation! :-)

3. Frankly I don’t want the distraction. Managing an advertising portfolio well takes time. It is possible, rare but possible, to have ads and do it with class. To do it well I suspect you need dedicated staff or blogging is your only job. That’s fine but it’s not me or EWN. I love my jobs, all of them – managing Explore What’s Next, being a good therapist for my clients, writer, wife, mother and steward of the animals under my care. That’s enough.

But mostly it’s number one.

Photo courtesy adambowie via Flickr

This makes me so mad!

Dear Readers,

I just now noticed that my Twitter feed in the sidebar at the right is a bloody commercial! Not my Twitter feed at all! I am taking it down as soon as I can. For my real Twitter feed click on the Twitter button to your right.  I just have to say that I have always kept this blog and website clean of commercials. Once in a while I may endorse a product I like but I am not paid for it in any way. This makes me so mad. Someone hacked into my feed and it’s embarrassing. Bleh!

Later: It’s fixed now. I changed my password and deleted that ‘not me’ tweet. This is yet another lesson in the importance of changing passwords on a regular basis.

Now on to more fun stuff like Skyping!


11th Commandment: Honor The Internet Sabbath

I took an Internet holiday last week. At first I was nagged by feelings of guilt and agitation. Withdrawal pains. After a few days the discomfort was replaced with a lovely sense of relaxation. I could focus on my family, good cooking, played games, music and even the few movies we watched (‘Elf’ is a holiday favorite.) Now I return to my online community with refreshed energy!

I recommend the occasional Internet vacation. If you can stand the initial detoxification symptoms and get to the other side you will find it is worth it. This article says it all.

The Joy of Quiet


Photo courtesy of Brian Hathcock

Today’s Marriage Advice: Don’t do that! Do this!

A common trap for couples is to blame the other for their problems, as in “If he would just be nicer to me I would be nicer to him!” or “If she would just stop nagging, I wouldn’t avoid going home after work.”

If each of them took personal responsibility, stopped waiting for the other to change, took the risk to act in the manner they want to be treated, the couple has a chance to break out of their tar pit of accusations to discover happiness.


Photo courtesy Ivars Kroutanis

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