Do you recognize some of these situations?
– You have something to say in meetings and gatherings, but you keep it to yourself because you think it is not valuable enough.
– You assume that others in a specific context are more intelligent and prepared than you.
– You procrastinate the tasks out of fear and insecurity.
– You compare yourself to others and their achievements, which triggers sadness and frustration.
If something that you read resonated, maybe you are experiencing impostor syndrome.
You can watch the video I made about it here:
What is impostor syndrome?
I’m sure you have heard about it before, as it is now a trend and especially if we feel more vulnerable and sensitive than usual.
Impostor syndrome is the thought (persistent, damaging) that tells you that you are not good enough, a fraud and/or not worthy of something you do (or want to do).
It is bonded with the idea that “they” (an abstract concept) will “discover” that you are not skilled, intelligent, prepared enough; and with the fear of being “exposed,” and every success you’ve ever had was linked to luck, a mistake or a bug in the matrix ;).
This feeling is mainly experienced by high achievers, perfectionists and intelligent people.
It is a recurrent theme in my online practice, as I provide online counseling to expat women with these characteristics. They have all the factual evidence of not being a fraud, but their self-doubts and insecurity don’t allow them to see it.
How to cope with impostor syndrome?
1.- Recognize it as such.
Identifying and understanding what we are experiencing with impostor syndrome (the first step of my framework – Identify) is pivotal to address anything that may be causing us discomfort and stress.
Observe your behavior, thoughts and feeling regarding situations that may trigger your “shyness” and self-doubt.
To help you identify impostor syndrome, ask yourself these 3 questions:
– what are you telling yourself regarding your achievements?
– what is your reaction when others acknowledge and voice your qualities?
– what do you think/feel in those “exposed” situations?
2.- Be aware you are not alone.
Imposter syndrome is not a diagnosis but a relatively new concept that is getting more and more attention from mental health professionals because its impact is snowballing.
To give you an idea: more than 70% of the expat population has experienced imposter syndrome; you are not the only one! Especially if you are an expat woman and a part of a minority.
Expats are exposed to many new situations that challenge our skillset and inner resources (language, cultural shock, new relationships, goodbyes, to name a few), making us more vulnerable to imposter syndrome.
3.- Remember: perfection doesn’t exist.
Perfection is an abstract concept that changes between cultures, genders, ages, languages, education, etc.
It is abstract because there are not indicators that measure perfection.
What you may think is perfect, the next person may see it as a sign of obsessiveness and the other as a lack of effort. There is no 100% consensus of what perfection is in any part of our lives.
If you feel like you might be a perfectionist, and this is holding you back and/or triggering impostor syndrome, you can journal those moments, identify patterns, and inquire about the emotions and thoughts behind them.
4.- Practice self-acceptance and self-acknowledgment.
First of all, accept that you are not perfect and that doesn’t exist (covered in point number 3).
Recognize and validate your accomplishments and celebrate your “failures” as your learning path that is leading you to achieve your goals.
It is the perfect superpower against impostor syndrome.
Have a list of achievements. Intentionally, every day at night, alongside the three things you are grateful for, list what you achieved that day.
Don’t put a ranking or a value, but note the things that felt like a conquer and made you feel good and validated.
It can be work-related but also private. For instance: you repaired something, cooked something, and it was delicious, you wrote a blog post, which took you less than last time.
5.- Accept compliments.
This is a big one among my clients, all high achievers, intelligent and driven expat women who have had accomplished so much.
Still, they struggle to see it, and even worse, they run away from and feel uncomfortable with compliments—a typical sign of impostor syndrome.
First of all, notice your reactions to praises. If you react, lessening them or ignoring them, that’s a sign that something must change.
There is a difference between bragging about something and acknowledging other people’s compliments. In a way, declining their praise can also be interpreted as diminishing what they are saying!
Practice a “thank you” or “you are very kind” instead.
That is grateful to them and you, and you will see how much better you feel by accepting the complement (given some time, of course, this is not automatic!)
Bonus 6.- Talk to a mental health professional.
Recognizing you need help to cope with this is not a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it takes courage to realize that a trained professional could help you cope with it.
Specifically, the framework I use in my sessions supports expat women:
– identify the problem(s) that is causing them discomfort
– connect with the thoughts and emotions triggering the situation and
– move forward to overcome these challenges and set the goals they need and want to make their international life fulfilling and happy.
Remember that you are worth it, you are capable, and those feelings of insecurity and doubt can be addressed and managed.
Take the reins now and live a fulfilled and happy international life, wherever you are, wherever you are heading!
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By your side,
Gabriela Encina is an online psychologist specialized in expat women and supports them with the guidance and tools they need to feel confident, make the best decisions for their lives, build and maintain meaningful relationships and prioritize their well-being.
Her approach is practical, solution-oriented and focused on the present.
Gabriela offers counseling to expat women in Spanish, English and German.