Imposter Syndrome is a Thing

Imposter syndrome needs to be outed.

I am sitting in my cozy residence room at Pacifica Graduate Institute, second semester into a five year PhD program, listening to the symphony of frogs outside my window and reflecting on a baffling realization.

Like a confessional, over the past few days I have heard colleagues express in their own ways, a similar concern that has plagued them, whether it be a brief passing thought or a lingering sense of: I don’t belong here. And I am shocked every time I hear this, because these are highly intelligent, inwardly aware, warm hearted doctoral students, and still the I am not good enough is present.

It has led me to reflect on my own sense of “Who do you think you are to be doing this?” And there is a part of me that has chimed in over the past months that says “You are not academic enough, you are not intellectual enough, what are we doing here?! You’re in over your head!”

It is curious that I spent four years in undergraduate studies, three years completing a masters degree, and am now embarking on five year journey which will throw a second Masters degree in the bag, in addition to (if all goes as planned) a PhD and there is a voice inside of me that comes up here and there that points it’s crooked finger at me accusing me of not being academic enough?!

Imposter syndrome: The feeling that you are not good enough, that you didn’t make it here (wherever) by merit, that you just slipped through the cracks.

The bait in the imposter syndrome trap is comparison. It is so tempting to compare ourselves to others. Often we have been presented with ample opportunity and encouragement to do so from the time we were kids. Media and marketing that profit off of our lack of self worth have watered the seeds of “wow, I don’t look like, act like, think like, ____like that” and consequently “I should  look like, act like, think like, ____ like that”. Add social media to the mix and we have a lethal elixir to substantiate our lack of worth and belonging.

The thing about comparison is that we are not objectively comparing ourselves to another person. We are comparing ourselves to the story we tell ourselves about the other person.

From a depth psychology perspective, whatever we are unconscious of is projected onto others. Carried within our unconscious shadow are all the parts of ourselves that we do not like or want to acknowledge, but also our unlived potential. So whether we are incredibly triggered by someone or we put them on a pedestal, we need to start to shine conscious light on these parts of ourselves to reclaim both our darkness and our power.

Imposter syndrome is usually silent. Part of the trap is thinking that you are the only one feeling this way, clearly this is false. Every one of us experiences this in our own way.

We all have an archetypal predator or saboteur in our psyche that shows up whenever there is an opportunity to step into our power. This is the part of our psyche that inherently does not want us to succeed. Usually the higher the stakes the more present the predator. And it needs to be outed. We take its power away when we name it, when we talk about it. It loosens its grip when light is shone on it.

I encourage you to reflect on how your predator shows up and challenge you to start to name it. Catch it when it comes up, let it know that you see it. Over and over. Until it shrivels under the light of consciousness. And when it comes back, repeat.

If you are interested in learning more about the internal predator, projection, and the process of reclaiming our power, join me for an upcoming Women Who Run With the Wolves group, more info to be found here: https://www.lianayipcounselling.com/new-events/