Do you ever doubt your abilities or feel like a fraud?
If you answered yes to the question above, you are a normal human being! To have unquestioned belief in your own amazingness and perfection would be more of a sign of psychopathy or narcissistic personality disorder. Everyone struggles with self-doubt at some point in their life, especially when starting something like a new job or career. For some people, those self-doubts can grow and evolve into feelings that they are a fraud or a phony, even when it is obvious to outsiders that they are neither of these things.
In case this is the first time you’ve heard of imposter syndrome, yes, it is a real thing – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome.
From talking with my PTA friends and colleagues, I know that it isn’t uncommon for PTAs to struggle with some feelings of imposture syndrome when they start their career or receive a significant work promotion. It can be easy to dismiss successes and accomplishments as luck, not truly earned, or that someone mistakenly thinks you are better than you believe yourself to be. This can lead to a vicious cycle where the person regularly discounts or refuses any positive feedback and becomes intensely focused on internal feelings of anxiety, fear, low self-esteem, and incompetence.
What can you do about it?
Talk about it! – Part of the reason why impostor syndrome exists is that the people struggling with it assume that there is something wrong with them and no one else could possibly feel this way. Once you start to open up about these feelings with trusted friends and colleagues, you’ll quickly realize how many people have experienced similar things.
Find a mentor – This is a more formal version of the “talk about it” suggestion above. Mentorship doesn’t need to be a highly structured thing to be beneficial. Also, please be very careful about paying for mentorship. Those scenarios can be helpful for some, but there are a lot of people out there who just want to take your money, not personally invest in you. Pay for learning opportunities, consultation, or advice from an expert. Those are all good things. But those are one-way things, so don’t confuse that with true mentoring.
Meet with a counselor – I am a huge advocate for counseling and mental health therapy. If you don’t have a close confidant that you feel you can talk with, please consider seeing a professional counselor. You don’t have to be suffering from a severe mental illness to benefit from their services and skill set. I especially recommend counseling for those who realize their feelings of being an impostor are tied to deep emotional and psychological issues related to family upbringing, identity struggles, and those who come from marginalized backgrounds. Some of these topics require the skillset of a mental health professional, which is why I prefer this over the life coach and paid mentor model.
Educate yourself – There are lots of blogs out there where you can read other people’s stories on how they experienced impostor syndrome, read books by authors who are trained in dealing with issues like this, and watch videos that discuss simple activities and exercises you can do for self-improvement.