You are not the imposter, imposter syndrome is

Not too long ago I made a significant career move to full-time private practice therapist. For several years previous this had been a secondary role, with marketing and communications as the main event. When I worked in marketing and communications, despite being a chartered professional, with years of experience and a cabinet of awards, I still did not believe I was any good. When I first had children, I would compare myself to other parents and somehow always come up short.

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As I found myself riding solo and marketing my own therapy practice, the clients quickly started to build up. I even got asked for tips on how to effectively market yourself by other therapists. And I realised, perhaps I was never actually bad at marketing. Perhaps those years of training, experience and accolades were legitimate. Perhaps the imposter syndrome which gaslit me throughout my former career was the true imposter. Wasting my time on worry, keeping me paid below my worth, and deeply afraid of being ‘found out’. 


Challenging the imposter 

At the time of writing, I’m in a place I never imagined being in. My best friend passing away was the painful catalyst for making the leap of faith to fully launching a business I sincerely believe to be my calling, and my children are now well-balanced and confident young people in secondary school. 

To manage this unexpected, bold, and often refreshing chapter, I’ve had to take a long hard audit of my imposter syndrome and find an alternative way of motivating myself. One not rooted in the idea of never being good enough to do things you are appropriately qualified, experienced enough and well within your rights to do.


The negative impacts 

I have noticed that we model how we expect to be treated by others by how we treat ourselves. If we don’t value our own contribution highly, then others won’t either. It doesn’t inspire confidence and we play small, people-pleasing to stay safe and blurring our boundaries to fit in. 

Sometimes we might hold ourselves back from opportunities altogether, thus stunting our personal and professional growth. Other times we might try to jump through more and more elaborate hoops to prove ourselves to the types of people who would likely have never believed in us anyway.

External validation, achieved through ‘winning’ or only telling ourselves we are ok once we achieve the latest milestone does not work in the long term, and causes several issues, such as anxiety and low self-esteem in the short term. Comparison is the thief of joy. And there will always be a shinier show pony. 


Just effing do it 

In my experience, combatting imposter syndrome is achieved by doing. Getting on with the job in hand. Showing up every day and gaining experience. Offering yourself space and psychological safety to learn and grow, instead of micromanaging yourself in an attempt to achieve perfection. With that comes acceptance of imperfections. You will be bad at things at times. Continue to do them anyway, you won’t be bad forever. Check in with yourself when you feel imposter syndrome rising and examine the actual evidence.

Facing the discomfort of more challenging days works. They pass, like everything else. Consider this. Has anyone ever actually looked back on their life and thought “Thank goodness my imposter syndrome stopped me from doing that.”? You are not the imposter, imposter syndrome is. Take courage and do.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London E3 & EC4N
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Written by Ellie Rowland-Callanan, MNCPS (Acc) | MBACP | MCIM | Psychotherapist
London E3 & EC4N

Ellie Rowland-Callanan (she/they) is a LGBTQIA+ affirmative psychotherapist, working in a intersectional, creative way to facilitate and empower clients in incorporating positive changes into their lives. They are a writer and an advocate for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) best practice, also providing EDI consultancy services.

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