Sunday, 23 August 2020

Imposter Syndrome: Are we ever good enough? BRiC's Collective Voice


Our Sunday discussion, a fascinating topic suggested by Bex, one of our ambassadors - Imposter Syndrome.

Naz opened the discussion with a brief explanation; telling us that when we doubt ourselves, feeling inadequate or incompetent, despite evidence to the contrary, that we may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
It has been shown that women experience this more than men and even though gender inequalities are gradually decreasing, seemingly strong and successful women often feel inadequate, as if their lives are based in fraud. Michelle Obama referred to imposter syndrome as her weakness.
These feelings can be intensified when we are faced with trauma, such as a breast cancer diagnosis.

Side effects from breast cancer treatment often leave us with problems which add to these feelings, memory loss, brain fog and concentration issues, fatigue and restricted mobility can all leave us feeling less able than our colleagues and friends. Long absences from the workplace may create fear about how we will cope when we return; we might feel we are failing as mothers because our illness prevents us from doing many things, or that we are letting our friends down when we can’t keep up with social engagements.

The trauma of breast cancer can bring back memories of previous difficult experiences, such as childhood events and toxic relationships; these memories can so easily lead us to a belief that everything is somehow our own fault, that we are not worthy of a better life or capable of success. Many of our members talked about doubting their abilities so much more after their diagnosis and treatment, despite holding down jobs, caring for families and leading busy lives. Our self-doubt is contrary to what we actually are, but it raises its ugly head on a regular basis. We worry about making fools of ourselves, about making changes, trying new things or forming new relationships.

We talked about how being compared unfavourably to others compounds these feelings. Many of us recounted incidents from childhood where we had been made to feel less worthy than a sibling or classmate, being told we were no good at something or would never amount to anything. Incidents we had long since forgotten, or locked tightly away in our minds, were brought back into life by our diagnosis and life with cancer. Our group has members with both primary and secondary diagnoses, for members with a secondary diagnosis there were the additional problems of on-going treatment restricting what they can do and of people treating them differently, as if their views were somehow less important because of their cancer. Other members said they almost felt like cancer imposters because they had been able to avoid chemotherapy or radiotherapy and as such felt like they were somehow less of a cancer patient.

There was an underlying belief that the way we are treated by others is somehow a reflection of ourselves, that we don’t deserve any better. “Nothing I ever did was good enough” was a phrase used often, and is a feeling that can stay with us throughout life, affecting everything we do. We talked of waiting to be found out, that our public persona was hiding our incompetence and any moment someone will see us for what we really are. Another common theme was difficulty accepting praise; equally many of us mentioned that criticism hits us hard, bringing to the fore those feelings of incompetence and inadequacy. When criticised we feel that we have been seen for what we really are, that our fraud has been uncovered and we can no longer feign competence.

Some of us have found ways to build our confidence, to give no credence to the opinions others hold of us, to be our own selves and be proud. It is often easier to believe the “bad stuff” about ourselves and we are all learning to also believe the good. We are strong, we are successful, we are perfectly imperfect, we are businesswomen, mothers, partners, teachers, managers, artists, dancers, singers and many, many more things. We make mistakes, but that’s OK, we can learn from them and grow even stronger. We are not inadequate or incompetent and we are supporting each other to build our resilience and fight that imposter.




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