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Is Imposter Syndrome affecting your friendships?

This blog takes a look at Imposter Syndrome and Social Anxiety

Ever felt like a fraud? Are you waiting for the world to find you out for being a fake? Do you have anxiety around never being good enough?

When we have overwhelming or ongoing worries about not being good enough, it is often referred to as ‘Imposter Syndrome’. This is a term that was coined in the 1970s by two female psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance, who identified that this was often experienced by women in the workplace. However, I often find that clients who are prone to Imposter Syndrome at work will also notice that this has an impact on their friendships and relationships, and can go hand in hand with Social Anxiety.   

How do I know if I have Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter Syndrome is not a clinical condition, it is a way to describe how some types of anxiety can manifest. Some of the characteristics can be as follows:

  • Doubting yourself all the time
  • Never being satisfied with your achievements, even if you do well
  • Thinking you ‘just got lucky’ if you succeed at something
  • Fear of failure
  • Setting high standards or goals which are not achievable

Any of these experiences can be perfectly normal in certain circumstances, for example if we are learning something new or starting a new job. If you feel like this all of the time, though, even when other people have praised you, you might be experiencing the anxiety of Imposter Syndrome.

So how does Imposter Syndrome link to Social Anxiety?

There are a couple of different ways that Imposter Syndrome can be connected to Social Anxiety.

First of all, if you are feeling that you are not good enough at your work or studies, this might be accompanied by feeling you aren’t good enough for your friends either. Perhaps you compare yourself to your friends who are doing better in their work than you, or who have got better grades. You might start to imagine that they won’t want to be around you because you’re a ‘loser’, or you don’t measure up to them in some way.

One client of mine was convinced that her best friend was going to ‘out’ her at work. She had spent many tearful nights talking to her friend about her fears and worries, but then began to experience anxiety that her friend might tell the rest of their work colleagues. She had no real evidence that this might be about to happen, but the fear that it might caused her to have a panic attack in the office. After this experience, she felt that she had made everything worse, and didn’t even want to confide in her friend any longer.  

The second way that this might impact you, is if you are always putting yourself down, and telling yourself and others that you are rubbish, your friends might find it difficult to be around you. They might find it exhausting to keep telling you that you are good enough, and start to spend less time with you. You will then find that your worst fears have come true, and you have pushed away the very people that you need support from.

Help! What can I do?

Counselling can help you to understand why you are experiencing anxiety, either at work or in your relationships. In my practice, I give my clients immediate techniques that can help them to reduce their anxiety in day to day life, and then in our weekly online sessions we explore together the roots of their issues, to make lasting changes that will reduce anxiety going forward.

Here are my top five tips for managing Imposter Syndrome and Social Anxiety:

  • Challenge your thoughts. If you keep criticising yourself, don’t just accept it, notice your thoughts and challenge them to see if they are really true. Where’s the evidence?
  • Reduce your social media time. Social media encourages us to compare ourselves to other people, but the posts we see from others are only the things they want you to see. Social media is not real life, and it will reduce your anxiety if you avoid it.
  • Self-Care. Make time for yourself and do activities that will help to combat your anxiety. This include getting enough exercise, having a healthy diet, and practicing relaxation. It can also mean giving yourself a treat, or just letting yourself off the hook for the day.
  • Notice other people. Take a look at other people. Are they really perfect? Do they really have it all sorted? I don’t want you to compare yourself, but to open your eyes to the fact that everyone has issues, no-one is absolutely wonderful all of the time (and if you ignore social media this is even easier to see!)
  • Forget being perfect. Set yourself small goals that you can achieve, and remind yourself of all the things you already do, not all of the things that you might be doing if you were somehow perfect. The world is a weird and wonderful place, and it is all of the imperfections which make it much more interesting! We are all unique individuals, so none of us can be perfect as we are not all the same.

So, wherever you are right now, take care of yourself, and be safe in the knowledge that you are not perfect and you never will be – but neither are any of your friends!

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