Ask Julie: I Feel Like An Imposter!
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!
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to TV Shows and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter. Her books The Burnout Cure and The Assertiveness Guide are now available. Dr. Hanks is currently accepting coaching clients.