Have you been feeling low, unproductive, and hopelessly dejected? You’re not alone.
These are not opening lines to an advertisement for an anti-depressant. These words describe what I and many people around the globe are feeling right now. Around two weeks back, I told Mr.P that I was feeling very very useless, hopeless, and unproductive. I felt as though I was stuck in a rut, with nothing worthwhile to do. I had said something similar to Ms. M too, sometime last year. Both of them consoled me by saying that I was doing enough, with the blog, crafting, the course, etc. I still felt like there was a void… like something was missing! During one of our morning walks, Ms. G and I also had a similar conversation where she told me, “I am not happy these days.” According to her doctor, the medical community has been hearing numerous similar statements and they attribute it to the pandemic, which is having a weird effect on everyone’s mental health. Read It’s Not Just You. A Lot Of Us Are Hitting A Pandemic Wall Right Now, which was published earlier today.
A couple of days after my conversation with Mr. P, I came across a post by a cousin (Ms. V) who had expressed similar sentiments. In her post, she said, “For sometime now, longer than I would care to admit, I have not been ok. I have been struggling with very low self-esteem, a predominant feeling of not being enough- not enough of a writer, not enough of a mother, not enough of a daughter, not enough of a teacher, not enough of an artist, just not being good enough. …I am just in between many things given up halfway coz I just cannot accept that it is enough.” In her post, she mentioned a term that caught my attention — Imposter Syndrome (IS).
I know I live in a country where just like the saying, ‘there’s an App for that,’ there’s always a syndrome for everything. But, I am not a hypochondriac and I am definitely not the only one feeling this way… so maybe this one is legitimate???
According to Dictionary.com, Imposter Syndrome is, “Anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one’s accomplishments to luck or other external forces.” I did some research before writing today, and most of the articles I read had similar information about IS. Here is what I understood:
According to American psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, IS or Imposter Phenomenon affects at least 70% of people at some point or the other. When IS was first found, the psychologists believed that it impacted women, especially high-achievers. Later research, however, showed that it can affect men too. Studies show that people succumb to IS because of different factors including anxiety, family environment and discrimination.
The main characteristics of this syndrome are pretty similar to what I had mentioned earlier and include lack of self-confidence, a feeling of inadequacy, and an inability to accept success as a result of one’s own hard work. Anxiety to interact with society is also a factor, where people feel extremely anxious to face people due to the fear of being identified as an imposter who does not deserve to be there.
There are different types of IS and it can range from perfectionists who always second guess their work and focus on negatives instead of positives to those who set unreasonable goals and break down when the goals are not reached and a category of soloists who prefer working alone and believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness.
In her post, Ms. V had mentioned how “At this point, I am just trying to get myself ok. And for that I am taking some baby steps.” So, if you are undergoing such feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy, the first step is to tell yourself that it is OK. Am I happy that others around me are also suffering? No. But I am glad that there are people out there who will understand what I am going through, simply because they are currently going through it or have experienced it at some point.
Experts say that to deal with IS, one has to start by acknowledging these feelings. Once you have accepted the emotions, share your experiences with someone close, like I shared with Mr. P and my friends. If even one person in your audience has experienced IS, they can help you understand that it is normal and that it can be overcome. It is also important to take small steps and to stop comparing yourself to others in your social circle or people on social media (one of the major triggers of IS). One tip that I particularly liked was to, “Focus on others. While this might feel counterintuitive, try to help others in the same situation as you. If you see someone who seems awkward or alone, ask that person a question to bring them into the group. As you practice your skills, you will build confidence in your own abilities.”
I don’t know if there is a connection, but I have noticed that these feelings of inadequacy and desperation are often accompanied by a lot of guilt: totally unnecessary, but still very prevalent. For the past 10 months, we have been extra cautious about going out, attending social gatherings, and even meeting our close friends. Every time I have said no to an event, or have returned after meeting our friends at their door steps, without entering their homes, I have wondered if they have felt offended, or even worse ostracized by us. And though a part of me knows that we are simply being cautious and that they understand it too, another part of me feels excruciatingly guilty. As my first step of healing, I am going to pin this guilt on the pandemic too!!!
You might be thinking that it is easy for me to read up on stuff, give a name to what I have been experiencing, write about it and ask you to acknowledge your feelings and share with others. Before you brush away my thoughts as lame words, remember that I am in the same boat. I am not saying that it is easy; but isn’t it worth a try? Especially if it will help you and others around you feel better. I will be taking those baby steps with you, so please feel free to share your experiences. We can, together, get some weight off our shoulders and move forward with a lighter load.
Here’s to a pleasant future where none of us has to spend even one day feeling like an imposter!