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What It Feels Like to Have 'Imposter Syndrome'

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I’ve been reading a lot lately about “high-functioning” depression and anxiety. I possess both. Most of the time I am able to be a high achiever and people who don’t know me well don’t realize how much I struggle to keep on the straight and narrow. One aspect of this I have seen over and over in my reading, and was recently made aware of within my own counseling sessions is imposter syndrome, or feeling like a fraud.

Trapped in seemingly successful achievement but shrouded in self-doubt, it is almost impossible for us to accept any success. In school, if I made a 98% in a class I kicked myself because why wasn’t it a 100%? At work, if ever I am called into a meeting with the supervisor I am filled with dread that I will be fired or chastised for something… often I don’t have any idea what it may be for, but I expect myself to fail and fail big. It gets to where I am working in a job, a career I love but am terrified to actually go to work for fear of screwing up, or more precisely, for fear of being pointed out by my boss that I am a total failure.

I spend so much time trying to prepare myself for these punches that I never notice if I am getting a raise or if I am proud of my own work. It is never-ending expectation of failure. I feel like an imposter. I have imposter syndrome.

When people tell you not to forget about those of us who succeed but are incredibly depressed or have insurmountable anxiety, they are explaining that while to you we may be succeeding, to us we are complete failures. And no one ever validates our feelings or recognizes we are feeling that way at all. We are constantly disappointing ourselves, but we hide behind a calm veneer. We feel we should be doing so much better. We go home to stare at the empty walls of our minds where all our achievements are supposed to hang, but we’ve torn them all to shreds.

We beg you to see us! We beg you to tell us, “You may not believe it, but you’re doing a great job! And if you need me to, I will continue to remind you of that for as long as you need.”

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Thinkstock image by Digital Vision.

Originally published: November 21, 2016
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