The Imposter Syndrome



Does this sound a familiar headspace to you? It can affect anyone at any time and this inner saboteur sits across all types of personalities and professions. What strategies do we utilise with Movement Intelligence? We use somatic tools and witnessing. Previewing and expanding our spacial orientation with skeletal grounding. We use rhythm (bouncing on our heels), finding our organic pace of breath and being able to sense both our inner and outer environment simultaneously. Cognitive behaviour support with somatic experiencing are wonderful tools for dampening mind chatter.

From an ABC article 2nd March 2019. By Michael Dulaney for The Pineapple Project

Impostor syndrome can be your loudest critic — here's how to silence it.

Every time she prepares for keyhole surgery, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Sarah Coll mentally runs through a checklist learned from decades of medical training and surgical experience. In the operating theatre, with as many as six medical professionals under her direction, Dr Coll said she at times approaches a mental state similar to that of world-class pianists. "When they're playing their piano, there's that beautiful, peaceful flow state," she said.

"And certainly I would say for about 20 minutes in [the surgery] it's very quiet, I can't hear anything, I can't talk—I just have to use my hands and feel what I'm doing and construct it in my mind. "That's very beautiful, very peaceful; it's just on either side of that where it gets more intrusive."

The intrusion is a voice of doubt in the back of her mind, one that runs through all the possible complications and ways she might not be up to the task. "What if the patient gets an infection? What if they're not happy with this?" Dr Coll explained. "There's a lot of 'what ifs'? There's a lot of 'is this going to work out?'" That voice is commonly known as impostor syndrome, and it can strike anyone—even someone as capable and skilled as a high-level surgeon.

What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence; one that can stubbornly persist despite much evidence to the contrary. It's the kind of internal monologue that tells us at any moment someone will tap us on the shoulder and tell us that we are a fraud, or just not cut out for our chosen vocation. Impostor syndrome is a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence; one that can stubbornly persist despite much evidence to the contrary. It's the kind of internal monologue that tells us at any moment someone will tap us on the shoulder and tell us that we are a fraud, or just not cut out for our chosen vocation.

Don't feel you're good enough? You could have impostor syndrome. Here are some common signs, and how to deal with it.

Author and media commentator Margie Warrell has spent much of her career advising people how to overcome their negative self-talk. She said most people have faced these fears at some point in their careers. "We tend to be very good at talking ourselves down, and being self-deprecating," she said. Ms Warrell said impostor syndrome can be experienced by anyone, at any stage of their career, but it is particularly potent for people who are perfectionists, who set the bar high. "I have met people who are in CEO roles who have moments of [self-doubt]," she said. "It actually keeps people from enjoying [the] feeling that they deserve to be where they are, and putting themselves out there... to do more of what it is we love to do."

Dealing with the internal doubter.

While women make up just four per cent of orthopaedic surgeons, in Dr Coll's case there are times when a negative opinion isn't just coming from within.

Dr Coll said she is often asked if she is, in fact, the surgeon.

"I have been taken aside on numerous occasions to explain why women shouldn't do orthopaedics... and various reasons why I'm grossly inadequate in my personal attributes," she said. These experiences are not limited to the medical industry, according to Ms Warrell, as it is often women and minorities who are hardest hit by impostor syndrome. While Dr Coll has developed ways to navigate the male-dominated profession, she said dealing with her own internal doubts took more time. "[When someone insults you] you can say 'they're a bit silly', or 'what a doddery old fool, I don't respect or value his opinion,'" she said. "But when it's your internal monologue, that's much more challenging. "It's so quiet, and so subversive."

Staring down the negative self-talk.

For anyone looking to silence their inner impostor, the trick is to not compare yourself to others that you perceive as more capable, according to Ms Warrell.

Margie Warrell's tips for curbing impostor syndrome.

1. Write down everything you've accomplished in the last 12 months

2. Think of five people in your life and ask them to share your five greatest strengths

3. Avoid comparing your weaknesses with other people's strengths

4. Lean into the discomfort you feel about putting yourself out there

5. Celebrate your wins along the way.

"That little voice in your head is going to say 'yes, yes, you can't do it' — you've got to prove it wrong," she said.

Whenever doubts creep in Dr Coll said she has learned to confront and dismiss the negative voice. "I've made myself accept that that negative self-talk is there, and I've gone to lengths to notice it, which is extremely unpleasant," she said.

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