Impostor Syndrome, and How to Belong
We like to think we live in a perfectly fair, equitable environment, especially at work. We achieve, we win, we get what we want and deserve, and the good people are promoted and rewarded. We earn what we have. So what happens when we feel we’ve gotten something we didn’t earn, or that we don’t belong? What is it like to live with accomplishments and successes, but be able to properly internalize them?
This is the reality of Impostor Syndrome[i].
This refers to the feeling of persistent fear at being outed as a fraud. It can mean living with an internalized anxiety that someone, or everyone, will soon discover you can’t do the things you claim, you’re potentially not good at anything, and the only reason you have your success, or your job, is because of luck, coincidence, good timing, or some unlikely confluence of events. In these fears you never earned the great things you have, and the ground may well fall out from under you at any point. Once exposed, you’ll be professionally ruined. It’s a daily tightrope walk.
Perfectionism, fear of failure, and continuously undermining your own achievements are all symptoms of this feeling[ii]. For those suffering from it, the decrease to quality of life can be enormous. The anxiety, depression, and often anger or confusion that goes along with it can keep you from achieving anything more, or trying new things that require courage. It can keep you awake at night, and negatively impact your job performance. It can make you irritable with your family or friends. It’s perfectly natural to have self-doubts and anxiety about work performance. It’s something else entirely to actively undermine your own abilities, cast aspersions on your potential, and fear that others will soon see you how you’ve been seeing yourself for some time.
It’s related closely to social anxiety in scientific literature[iii], and is not yet recognized in the DSM-V[iv]. This condition tends to strike women more often than men[v]. In a male-dominated workplace, the feeling of being an impostor can be made even worse. Women often feel they struggle to distinguish themselves from their colleagues, or that they must go out of their way to be better just to be equal. With such undue pressures put on many women in the workplace every day, the anxiety, stress, and fear can begin to take a psychological toll. Feeling like an impostor, or a fraud, becomes a way of life. It begins to seem like there is no way out of the cycle, and the only path forward is straight down.
It’s important to remember that it isn’t true.
Through peer work, counseling, therapy, and other forms of self-empowerment and betterment, you can come to realize you have indeed achieved great things, and can continue to do so. You don’t need to be held back by your own fears and doubts. You did earn what you have, and you’re performing where you need to. These are the lessons and the mantras people with impostor syndrome need to remember. Keeping such things in mind can help you move forward, tackle new projects, and put yourself out there professionally to achieve even better things than you had before. They can help you be happier, and to accept where you’ve been, and where you’re going.
Talk with your friends and peers. Listen to the stories people tell, not only of their success, but of their failures. Learn to recognize when you’ve made an achievement, and how to properly internalize that for the future. You don’t need to become arrogant, but taking stock of what you’ve made and done is always important. Only then can you accurately gauge where else you’d like to go, and how to get there. With the right mindset, it’s all possible.
What It Looks Like to Overcome
We’re all used to hearing the clichés repeated: It gets better. It’s always darkest just before the dawn. Tomorrow is a new day. Or, sometimes, in a more sarcastic sense, life goes on. We don’t always take the psychological process of recovery as seriously as we should. Sometimes we brush it off with a worn phrase, or treat it as commonplace. We don’t always understand how someone else’s experience might differ from our own, and the challenges they may have faced.
So, what does it look like to overcome a challenge?
It often won’t be outwardly momentous. You won’t always see victory laps or celebrations or anything overt. Recovery, be it from mental illness, addiction, a trauma, or some other event, takes many forms and shapes. You can’t always get a consistent profile. Some people enjoy the process, and talk openly on social media and in public about what they went through and why, and what they’ve learned from it. Others keep it to themselves, or share it only with close friends and those who may be helped by learning of their experiences. We don’t advocate for one strategy over another. It truly is an individual process.
For someone with depression, overcoming the condition may be night and day in its clarity. When patients at Alivation use TMS, for example, a majority report a very different mental state than when they went in. They see the world clearer; they may be less scared, and have hope again. They enjoy their experiences in the world more, and pursue things they may never have considered trying before treatment. You may see someone with a new job, or perhaps another new beneficial life change that you couldn’t have previously imagined them with. For someone with OCD, the experience may be similar. With decreased anxiety from medication or TMS, they might outwardly enjoy themselves more, or seem visually less stressed.
Sometimes it really is just stress taking its toll on a person. We’ve had patients who only needed to talk, to feel their situation was meaningful and warranted attention. We have excellent counselors and therapists on our team—they know how to help. But a big part of the process is for the person to understand their own needs and what they need, or want, to get out of therapy. With clear goals, overcoming challenges can be achieved easier. Recovery for these people might be an improved quality of life, sometimes greatly. It can also mean wonderful benefits for family members and friends. The people who love and care about you want to see you get better, or see you as happy as they know you can (and should) be.
One thing, however, is universal: for the team at Alivation, when a patient overcomes a challenge or gets better, it is always deeply rewarding. There’s no greater feeling than knowing someone has reached their Next Level, or found a meaning to their life that they lacked before. To see someone go through TMS—depressed at the beginning, happy and with a new resolve at the end—is fantastic. It’s why we do what we do, and why we take such pride in our work and the stories of the people we help. We’ll always pursue that, and never stop loving the stories of recovery and overcoming challenges we hear daily. It reminds us to always be our best as well, and to equally improve.
Mental Health, Gun Violence, and the Media
It seems whenever you read the news today, or watch TV, there’s been another vicious rampage. It’s become almost a tragic fact of life, with a consistent profile: A public place, a shooter, a high-caliber weapon, dozens dead, twice as many injured. It leads to a cycle of debate and blame, causation and escalation. You’ll find lots of theories about why it happened, and what can be done to prevent it from ever happening again in the future. Promises are made, proposals discussed, and the usual social media cycle of grief, prayers, and a vigilance to stop everything that hurts us[i].
And still it happens.
As of this writing, there have been almost 250 mass shootings in the United States—in 2019 alone[ii][iii]. Recent mass killings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas have reignited an ongoing debate[iv]. The usual political lines have been drawn, and arguing commences even as the families grieve for what was taken from them. Not lost—taken. The crimes we see today represent the worst of humanity on display. The worst reaction we can ever have is to become numb to it, or passive in our acceptance of a new world with random acts of destructive violence and untold misery. There still must be hope to fix a troubled world.
If you read the common news dispatches after another shooting, you’ll get many diagnoses across the board about the killer’s profile. Mentally unwell, mentally unstable, psychotic, detached, antisocial, angry, bitter are all words used frequently to describe their pathology. In many cases, therapists, counselors, teachers, and parents expressed worry about such acts occurring[v]. Sometimes they had criminal records; other shooters didn’t[vi]. In some cases, the shooters acquired the weapons they used illegally, and other times they were purchased 100% legally[vii]. It can feel like being onboard a train during a slow-motion crash, seeing all the signs, knowing the outcome, but unable to stop it just the same.
It strikes us vicious and psychotic: To purchase a weapon with a high-capacity magazine, put on body armor, and walk into a public place and begin firing on everyone. There’s a lot at work in this kind of mental health, a severe sense of detachment that must occur for the rampage to proceed. The level of dehumanization necessary to carry out such a thing is unfathomable to most people. The truly frightening thing isn’t that this kind of violent outlook is rare but able to be caught in time—it’s that it can be hidden, making catching it in time almost impossible[viii]. So very many spree killers sifted right through the system, and carried out their attacks[ix]. In some cases, they left long manifestos explaining their ideology and their motivations. They all tend to be consistent.
Delving into the full psychology of gun violence would take a blog much longer and much more detailed than this one. A history of shootings—and their increase in recent years—can and does fill books[x]. You’ll often hear tales from the survivors of both heroism and survivor’s guilt, and harrowing narratives of how a peaceful place or event—a theater, a festival, a small town, a mall—is suddenly turned into carnage. What was once shocking and uncommon twenty years ago, like Columbine, is now veering dangerously close to becoming accepted as part of modern life. We may lose our ability to be shocked.
Here’s what we can do: Study, educate, inform. Listen to the scientists and researchers when they draw attention to crucial studies about what can be done, and the effect gun availability may have on such events[xi]. Respond to a changing world with accuracy and compassion for those who need it most. Watch for warning signs of violence in your friends and neighbors, and take appropriate action[xii]. If you feel strongly increased funding for mental health screening will help this problem, then lobby your congressperson to pass such legislation. If you find limiting guns is the answer, or instituting red-flag laws[xiii] and more extensive background checks, take the same route[xiv]. Spread the word, and factual articles, on social media. Share your take with those who need to hear it. Take mental health seriously. Take compassion for those with mental health problems seriously.
Let’s never become numb to the problems that demand our attention.
Every organization faces challenges in how they present and market themselves.
This isn’t really a secret. In a new age of Online Reputation Management (ORM) and narrative marketing, how the world sees an organization is crucial. For medical facilities, the importance of certain features in a narrative cannot be overstated. Clean, compassionate, efficient, communicative—all qualities for a successful organization, doubly so for medicine.
Alivation is no different.
In our field, mental and behavioral health, reaching everyone is often an uphill battle. So many patients face struggles that seem insurmountable to them, and that mentality can affect care. It’s easy to become cynical or pessimistic, or to believe things will not work out and no one can help. Sometimes we worry we can’t help everyone or won’t reach everyone in the way they need to get better. But we always try our best, and we feel we succeed the vast majority of the time. We have thousands of recurring patients. We see hundreds of new ones every week. We have countless testimonials from people telling us what an impact we’ve made in their lives. We cherish each one.
Which is why it’s disheartening for us to see negative reviews on social media, or Google Reviews. They are, however, a fact of life. We don’t ever remove negative reviews, or try to hide them. We do our best to reach out to those who’ve left negative reviews to better understand their experience and their subsequent frustrations. We often ask their providers in the organization what the experience was, and how it could’ve been improved. More importantly, we try our best to ensure the negative experience never happens again. We hold all our providers to the highest standards possible.
Of course, sometimes we just couldn’t help people with their struggles. We always wished we could’ve done more, but we understand the brain is a complicated thing, not everyone is the same, and, just like the rest of the medical field, we’re all still learning the best we can. We take pride in our growth. Next Level You means growth, after all. Our logo symbolizes evolving and becoming the person you’d like to be. It’s a give and take, and one we strive to perfect each time we see a patient, each time someone trusts us with their situation. We select the best team members for all our positions to ensure we earn that trust.
What we want people to know, ultimately, in all our marketing is this: We do our best, and for the overwhelming majority of the population, that works wonderfully. It’s enough to get people back on their feet, to help them feel whole again, and to ensure they don’t spiral back into the negative places they sought to escape in the first place. We’ve been very successful in helping thousands of patients, and that’s a testament to our great team of providers, and the excellent care we give. Success, for us, is the opportunity to treat even more people than we could’ve before, and reaching populations previously thought unreachable. We always love the chance to help, and to improve. We also welcome feedback in pursuit of this goal. We love hearing from people, both the good and what we can improve on.
If you have ideas and/or things you’d like us to know, please message us on Facebook anytime. We’re always open to suggestions, and we love to hear from people. We’d welcome the chance for one-on-one conversations, and open dialogue on the best ways to reach you. Next Level You applies to everyone—and ourselves, too.