Q: No matter what Iâ€™m doing, or which role Iâ€™m fulfilling, I feel like a fake.
This includes my low-stress job, friendships, even parenting.Â I feel that I donâ€™t belong and itâ€™s only a matter of time before others find out, which scares me. I believe that this has been going on for several years, but I only recently became aware of it. I know that I felt this way the entire time I was in college, but I thought that it was because I hated my major. I donâ€™t feel like my child is really mine, even though I remember giving birth to her. Iâ€™m afraid that if I talk to anyone about this that they will take her away.Â Iâ€™m currently being treated for depression, but I feel like Iâ€™m going to explode trying to bottle everything up. What is going on?
A: Thanks for writing in for help. I imagine itâ€™s incredibly painful, confusing, and frightening to wonder ifÂ youâ€™ll be exposed as a fake.
There is a name for the experience youâ€™re describing â€” â€œimposter syndromeâ€ or â€œimposter phenomenon.â€ While imposter syndrome isnâ€™t an official mental health diagnosis it has been studied and written about by many psychologists. Itâ€™s the inability to â€œdigestâ€ and internalize your own life and accomplishments. Several famous individuals, like Jodie Foster, have expressed similar experiences of feeling like they donâ€™t belong,Â they donâ€™t deserve the life they have, and that they will be exposed as a fraud. The imposter syndrome is also commonly experienced by many graduate students. It is a stressful way of feeling about your life and may be connected to or contributing to your depression.
You mentioned that youâ€™re currently being treated for depression. Iâ€™m unclear as to whether that means youâ€™re taking medication or youâ€™re in therapy. If youâ€™re not in therapy, please look into individual and group therapy, in particular. I think it would be very helpful to hear that other people experience similar feelings. You may enjoy reading this PsychCentral article Feeling like a fraud, and the book â€œHow To Feel As Bright And Capable As Everyone Else Thinks You Areâ€ by Dr. Valerie Young available at her website ImposterSyndrome.com. Thanks again for writing in and best to you on the road to accepting that this is your life, youâ€™ve created it, and you deserve it.
Take good care of yourself!