You Are Good Enough
You Are Good Enough: How to Feel Like It, and Overcome Imposter Syndrome
You Are Good Enough
Self-Esteem & Feeling Good Enough
YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH: When someone gives you a sincere compliment do you automatically think of six reasons why you're really not good enough? Do you compare yourself to others, and imagine that they know more, have a better time, or are more successful than you? Is it hard for you to feel “good enough” no matter what you do, or how much you achieve? How about on the job? If you're in a position where others look to you for leadership or guidance, do you doubt yourself and struggle with “imposter syndrome?”
If you can relate to the “I'll never be good enough” experience: Welcome. I'm sorry you're going through this, but I'm glad you're here so that I have the chance to help you. As a Denver therapist and life coach, I so often work with clients who struggle to feel “good enough” even when everyone else (including me, their therapist) thinks they're amazing. I know how painful this life space can be: Feeling like nothing is ever good enough is an exhausting and demoralizing way to live. It takes a toll on your self-esteem, and makes it hard to enjoy your life.
I also know from my work as a Denver self-esteem therapist and life coach focused on empowerment and strength that hope and healing are possible, with the right help. On today's episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I'm going to be sharing some of the evidence-based therapy and life coaching strategies that I share with my private clients who are struggling to feel like they are good enough.
We're doing to be doing a deep dive into the causes of feeling like you're not good enough (including “imposter syndrome!”), and then discuss in-detail some actionable strategies you can use to genuinely, from the bottom of your heart, say, “Yes. I am good enough.” Because you are good enough! This episode will help you FEEL it, too.
Here's an overview of what you'll learn in today's episode:
What Do Your Circumstances Have to Do with Feeling Good Enough?
Did you know that most people who don’t feel good enough tie it to their circumstances? Your circumstances have almost no actual bearing on how you feel about yourself. Really! Even the most successful people sometimes don’t feel good enough. Remember: all these “proofs” that you’re successful can be taken away. The only thing that matters is your relationship with yourself, and learning how to feel good about yourself and your life even when you're facing challenges. I'll explain how!
How to Believe You’re Good Enough
What research into evidence-based practices such as cognitive behavioral therapy shows is that getting a handle on your inner narrative and inner dialogue is the most powerful way to change your relationship with yourself. I'm sharing some strategies to help you keep from getting swept away by your automatic (even subconscious) thoughts so that you gain control over your inner experience. We'll talk about how your thoughts impact your feelings, and how to heal your heart by getting clear in your mind.
How Therapy & Coaching Help You Feel Good Enough
Therapy helps you gain self-awareness about what's going on inside of you. This self-awareness allows you to step back, and make intentional changes to the way you think and the way you feel. Effective life coaching challenges you to take positive, intentional action that helps move you towards your ideal goals. When you're in a good place and emotionally healthy, positive actions are much easier to follow through with. Then you can begin an upward spiral of wellness that supports the highest and best of your whole self. You cannot take an empowered stance when you’re at war with your thoughts.Your therapist or coach is your ally in creating a sense of self that is different from your inner narrative: That's where it all begins!
Let's Talk. Schedule a Free Consultation Today.
The Impostor Syndrome
Another really common aspect of feeling like you're not good enough is when you're struggling with imposter syndrome on the job. “The impostor syndrome” refers to the experience of not feeling good enough in a professional context. Even when intellectually, you know what to do, you feel like you’re faking it. The imposter syndrome leads to feelings of shame and anxiety that people will realize you don’t know what you’re doing. (Even though you do!) This can lead to paralysis, disempowerment, and even burnout. Let's not!
Impostor Syndrome vs. Growth Mindset
To help you overcome imposter syndrome on the job, I'm also speaking with career coach Dr. Lisa Orbe-Austin about where imposter syndrome comes from and what you can do to regain your trust in yourself. We talk about the difference between “growth opportunities” and imposter syndrome, and how to tell the two apart.
Why Accomplished People Still Don’t Feel Good Enough
Here are some of the imposter syndrome-busting strategies that Dr. Orbe-Austin is sharing with you:
- How to identify the origins of your impostor syndrome as being rooted in childhood experiences.
- People who were considered smart kids doubt their intelligence when things don’t come easy to them.
- People who were not considered gifted growing up are the opposite. Because they had to work hard for things, they doubt they have natural talents and skills.
- Lastly, those who had to survive without adult figures fear their success could be taken from them at any time.
- Having codependent or narcissistic family members is also correlated to impostor syndrome.
The Impostor Cycle
- People with impostor syndrome often get performance anxiety, and they cope by either overworking or self-sabotaging.
- When feedback comes in, they internalize the negative and minimize the positive.
- They get so caught up in their mistakes that the next time they perform, it’s as if they’ve never done it before. Then the cycle repeats.
Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
Overcoming imposter syndrome, just like repairing your self esteem, is not easy work but it is essential. Here are some tips to guid you on your journey towards healthy confidence in yourself:
- Remember that letting go of your impostor patterns is a lifelong process. Understanding your triggers is incredibly important. What are your triggers for not feeling good enough? Listen, and find out!
- Becoming empowered means getting in control of your inner narrative: Learn how to use the skills of rational thinking and self affirmation to support yourself when imposter syndrome flares.
- Did you know that perfectionism, imposter syndrome and low self esteem are all connected? Learn why!
- Learn why it's so critical that you reprioritize and take care of yourself first — even when you feel like you haven't “earned it.”
- Having a community of support is incredibly healing when you're struggling to feel like you're good enough. It's the antidote to shame. Learn how to create a chorus of confidence in your circle that lifts you up!
Resources To Help You Feel “Good Enough!”
- The Love, Happiness and Success Podcast: Signs of Low Self Esteem
- Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life by Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin
- Do you want to discover how healthy your self-esteem is? Take our free online self-esteem quiz.
- Enroll in our Happiness Class to learn cognitive behavioral skills to support your authentic happiness.
5 Powerful Quotes from This Episode
“Your circumstances have almost no actual bearing on how you feel about yourself.”
“You can't flip a switch and change the way that you feel. But you can change the way you think. And when you change your thoughts—you change the script, you change the story—you will feel differently about exactly the same thing.”
“If you are still learning and growing doesn't mean that you're not competent.”
“The person that we take care of last is us . . . And so it's such an important thing to kind of reprioritize that and think about how we'd like to live and the way that we care for ourselves.”
“It is sort of getting a community around that so that you can deal with sort of what's happening structurally to you that is real, that is attempting to make you feel invalidated.”
Enjoy The “You Are Good Enough” Episode?
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Wishing you all the very best on your journey of growth my friend!
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She's the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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You Are Good Enough
Access Episode Transcript
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: This is Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby, and you're listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.
That is, of course the, I think, classic song, Superman, a poignant exploration of someone who is not feeling good about themselves, who is focusing on their flaws but who is also harboring this idealized fantasy of what they could be. They want to be Superman. They're not going to be Superman, but they can feel good anyway. That's what we're talking about today on the show. If this is your first time listening to the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast, I'm so glad you're here. I am Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby I am the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching, and this podcast is all about helping you create love, happiness, and success. And thank you if you're a regular listener and have gotten in touch with me through growingself.com on Instagram at @drlisamariebobby, or of course, on Facebook.
And today, we're talking about how to feel good enough, genuinely good enough. And we're talking about this today because you have told me that this is a pain point for you. I've gotten so many messages through social media and through comments on the blog, and also even in conversations with my therapy and coaching clients here at Growing Self, and also, you know, listening to what my colleagues are doing in their work lately, and this is such a painful life space to be in. I wanted to bring you some things today that could help with this. You may remember a while back, we talked about self-esteem in depth, you might want to take a look a few podcasts ago if you'd like an overview of that. And if you're interested, you can certainly help yourself to the self-esteem quiz that I created. If you even want to pause this, take the quiz again to see where you are. You can get that by texting the word esteem, E-S-T-E-E-M to the number 55444 just to kind of get a read on where you are in terms of your overall self-esteem.
And feeling good enough, I think, is connected to self-esteem, but it almost has like a different life of its own and can be a little bit different to shift it as opposed to like a global self-esteem kind of situation. And I want you to know that if you struggle sometimes to like, feel good enough, it can be sometimes related to what you're doing in life where self-esteem is kind of just this marinating and a sense of not feeling that great about yourself more globally. I think feeling good enough often manifests in like comparing yourself and being linked to achievements and—like what you're doing and what other people are doing—these perceptions of success and whether or not you're living up to whatever that definition is. And I have to tell you something, so as a therapist and a life coach, I work with you know, people from all walks of life, and I often speak with people who are objectively, very successful. You know, they're successful in their careers or their business owners, and like, subjectively when you look at them from the outside—or objectively—I should say, they look like they have it all going on. And it doesn't really matter that much, I mean, like even though things are working out for them, things are going as well as possible, that truth does not touch them on the inside.
And I say this because if you're like most people who are struggling to feel “good enough”, whatever that means, it can be very, very easy to tie that to whatever your circumstances are. And for, you know, normal average people like us to be looking around at our circumstances and viewing that as evidence of why we're not quite good enough, you know. So you can look around and be like, “My house is a wreck, I'm a mess,” or “I don't have as many friends as other people do,” or “I'm kind of struggling financially,” or even some people, you know, think, “I really am not…” you know, “I have a job; I don't have a career that I'm passionate about. I should,” and all of those external circumstances conspire into these like reasons why you're not quite good enough, right?
But I am going to tell you a secret. This is a big, top secret like life-changing information that I'm going to share with you right now. Here it is. Your circumstances have almost no actual bearing on how you feel about yourself, and I know this for a fact. Here's a secret, it’s gonna tell you why. I know this for a fact because I have served as the therapist or life coach to extremely successful people, like, way more successful than I am. I mean, I have literally had clients drive to my office in a Ferrari and flop down on my couch and tell me all the reasons why they're not quite good enough. I have been in life coaching sessions where I have said things like, the words that have come out of my mouth have been, “You're the most successful real estate developer in your region of the United States. You have built hundreds of homes. You are worth millions of dollars. Really, you're not that good enough?” And the answer back is, “Well you know, I mean. Yeah, there's that. But let me tell you about all these other areas that I'm failing in.” I mean, physicians, doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs, like who are multimillionaires, they vacation in Switzerland, they live in mansions, they have—like live in help, and they still feel this way. They still feel like they're not quite good enough.
And so the punch line, the thing that I'm trying to communicate here is that whatever circumstances are going on, changing those circumstances will not change the way that you feel because the other side of this too. I have had the honor of serving as a therapist to people who are absolutely on the opposite end of the spectrum. So you know, someone who was living in their car and got food exclusively from food bank donations at one point, and they felt like a fundamentally worthwhile human being who was going through a hard time and who deserved more and who was going to be okay. It was not tied to their circumstances. The way you feel about yourself and whether or not you feel good enough comes exclusively from your relationship with yourself and the way you think about yourself, and that can be cultivated intentionally. So do not get tricked into believing that your happiness or your worthiness as a person is dependent on outside circumstances and that if you worked hard enough and you're able to create these specific set of circumstances, then you would feel differently. Because I'm telling you, as somebody who has had a front row seat to this, you will not feel differently because people who have done that don't automatically feel differently.
The feeling good enough cannot be linked to achievements or status or any other, you know, “proof” that you've done it. It doesn't matter. And another thing to think about is that all of those circumstantial things can be taken away. You could live in a mansion and go vacationing in Switzerland and live in housekeeper—and then lose that. And then what does that mean about you? Similarly, all kinds of privileges are bestowed on people who have not earned them, they are worthless in that sense. So the only thing that matters is your relationship with yourself; everything else stems from that. If you have an abusive critical relationship with yourself who is always telling you how bad you are and how you're not quite good enough, you will feel anxious and unlovable in many different situations. You'll feel anxious and unlovable in your relationships even if you are connected to people who love you to pieces and just tell you how fantastic you are and think you're great. It doesn't matter, you will not feel that way. If you are fundamentally harsh and judgmental with yourself, you will dismiss and devalue everything you do.
“Yeah, I'm a published author, and yes, the book won an award, but it was like four years ago. What have I done since then?” I mean, really, it is so easy to slip into that inner dialogue. And so the key here is not just intellectually believing that you're good enough, but it is feeling the truth that you are really good enough and that comes through a growth process. And I'm going to tell you the steps. I am not even going to mess around here.
I once wandered into a Chick-fil-A, and they had a poster on the wall, it was like, “Lemonade. Here's the recipe: water, sugar, lemons. The secret is out,” and I just thought that was so cute because it's like so obvious. And I am going to give you the secrets to changing the way you feel about yourself as, hopefully, as directly as the lemonade recipe. And here it is. Super straightforward.
Step one of feeling good enough, is recognizing, first of all, that you are not the same thing as your thoughts. Your inner narrative, the one that is telling you who you are, what you are compared to what you should be, is not the objective truth. It is an opinion, and it is not you. It isn't.
Once you've realized that, then step number two, once you’ve recognized that you are not your thoughts, is realizing that you have control over the narrative. That voice inside of yourself can be shaped intentionally, and you have the power to change it.
Once you have embraced that truth, then step three, is recognizing and experiencing that your thoughts and whatever is going on in your head in terms of the narrative, the story, the script—that determines your feelings. Your thoughts create your feelings, your thoughts create your perceptions of reality and your experience of reality, and you can't flip a switch and change the way that you feel, but you can change the way you think. And when you change your thoughts, you change the script, you change the story, you will feel differently about exactly the same thing. And when you're able to do that, there is a sense of peace and your emotional experience of yourself changes.
And then step four is that when you shift into that emotionally-felt experience of being good enough and the sense of like peace and fundamental worthiness, you will make better choices for yourself that stem from that fundamental worthiness, and that the things that felt difficult to do intentionally will all of a sudden feel much, much easier to do because they're coming from a place that feels true, as opposed to you trying to wrestle with yourself to do things that are incongruent with your self-concept.
So that's it. Those are the steps. Anyone can do them—anyone can do them. I would also like to add, while we are on the subject, that the process that I've just outlined for you, just so you know, is not my opinion. I did not make this up. This is the foundation of something called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which through countless hundreds, possibly thousands of clinical trials that explore what actually changes the way that people feel, think, and behave. This one wins every time. This approach is certainly useful for mental health concerns. It is also the approach of evidence-based coaching. And I think that's why I have so much—is frustration the right word?—or discomfort with approaches of therapy and personal growth that focus on other things. And not that the other things can't be important or salient, I do think that it is sometimes necessary to figure out, “Okay, who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I the way that I am?” But to be involved in a growth process that stops there and doesn't really explicitly help you change that narrative is going to be very limited in terms of its effectiveness, and you deserve that.
So changing your thoughts is really core to changing all other aspects of your experience and feeling better; it is the most direct path. You can certainly learn these skills. There are self-help books galore. I, myself, have done an online, you know, my online happiness class is all about, it's like teaching you how to recognize thoughts and change them. And it can sometimes be very, very important, even necessary, I think, to partner with someone who can help you gain that first step of self-awareness. In my experience, the first one is the hardest, just like they say in AA, “Watch that first step. It's a witch,” right? It can be challenging, I think, if you have been marinating in the broth of your own self-concept for your entire life to begin to get the psychological distance between your thoughts and the true you. That is hard and it's also necessary because you cannot take an empowered stance towards your thoughts unless there is a you and a difference between you and what's knocking around in your head.
So that first step is often where therapy or coaching comes in and can really be the most necessary as is. Because without that, it's like you being at war with your thoughts and trying to figure out what is true, what isn't true. And when you connect with someone who's there beside you saying, “Is that really true?” or “Where did you learn that about yourself?” or saying things like, “I know that's a story that you're telling yourself, but here's what I see about the situation.” So it's like you have an ally who can stand with you and help you see the thoughts and the inner narrative differently and begin to create a sense of yourself that is different from your thoughts because, again, it's not the same thing. So to get an ally in that change process can be really, really helpful, and from there, once you have that sense of empowerment, then you can begin to change the story and feel differently.
And it's also true that when people are struggling to feel good enough, it can show up in numerous dimensions of their lives. But for a lot of people, a real pain point comes around feeling good enough in their career or at work, and again, because that good enough feeling is so often linked to achievements or advancements or, “What am I doing compared to what other people are doing?” Professionally and occupationally, there is a lot of growth that can be done in service of feeling better about yourself when you look at how you are showing up in your career. And when it comes to looking at this experience from the mindset of a career coach, an easy way to get a handle on this is to think of the impostor syndrome. I don't know if you're familiar with that term, but the impostor syndrome refers to the experience of being in a professional role, often one where you have responsibility or you're in a position of leadership where people are looking towards you to make decisions or provide guidance, and if you don't feel good enough, you feel like an impostor. You feel like you're faking it. There's this voice in the back of your head that's like, “I don't really know what I'm doing,” and this anxiety that comes with, “Sooner or later these people are going to realize that, and they're going to know that I don't really know what I'm talking about, and that I am not good enough, and I'm going to get humiliated or criticized or even rejected and run out,” right. This is a terrible experience, and the impostor syndrome is also very common and deeply linked to that deeper experience of not quite feeling good enough.
So for the second half of this episode, we're going to be talking more specifically about the impostor syndrome experience, and for that, I have enlisted the support of an expert on this topic. We are going to be turning our attention now to a conversation with a licensed psychologist and executive coach, Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin. She's based in New York City, and she is the co-author of a book on this exact topic. The book is Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life. And she's with us for the remainder of the show to share her insights on where impostor syndrome comes from, related to the work experience and what we can do to change it. Dr. Orbé-Austin, thank you so much for joining me.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Thank you so much for having me, Lisa.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: I'm excited to talk with you about this. And so I have a number of questions prepared. But the first one, and I hope it's okay to jump in with this. But so you've written extensively on the subject of impostor syndrome, which is that experience of like feeling, not confident, worried that you don't really have mastery over the subject that people are kind of looking to you to guide them around, and so it's that experience of not feeling good enough when actually you are.
And to begin, I am wondering how one can tell the difference between not feeling good enough when they actually are? Or are they having an experience of needing to grow and develop skills and maybe get more experience or expertise in order to really legitimately feel more competent? How can you tell if it's a confidence issue? Or if maybe you do need to develop yourself? Can we start there?
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, sure. I mean, it's a great question. I think a lot of people ask me this, especially when, you know, people are coming straight out of college in their first jobs struggling with this feeling of being incompetent. Is that impostor syndrome? Well, you know, if it's about that particular domain, and you're coming out of college and it’s your first job, it’s probably not. That specific instance, it’s probably not about impostor syndrome. It's about when you have these accomplishments, skills, credentials, like you have verifiable concrete proof, you have 10 years of experience in the business, like you have like significant proof, you know, behind you that's concrete, and yet you still feel like you might be exposed as a fraud or incompetent. And it's not you know, it's the differentiation between the idea that you have to be doing something perfectly in order to be competent or excellent or expert and the idea that we have to constantly work on our growth and be in a growth mindset and constantly adding on skills, like these are not mutually exclusive. Being an expert and skilled and being at the nth degree of our careers, like those are not sort of what we're talking about, you know.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That's a great reminder, and I love that it's like, you're just reminder that if you are still learning and growing doesn't mean that you're not competent. It's a good thing to be continually learning and growing, and you're saying that’s just an easy way to figure out, is it impostor syndrome or is it actually a—not just growth opportunity, but growth necessity—is to look at that just like rational peace? “Have I gotten the level of training or experience that other people of kind of maybe around me have?” or, “Am I brand new into a field or a role?” then it's kind of like expected that you would be learning, figuring it out, and that's okay, too, compared to like a feeling, like you don't know enough when you actually do. I appreciate that because it's hard for some people to know.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah. It’s hard to differentiate it. And I think, some people, what's interesting is that when you have impostor syndrome, sometimes you even dismiss the concrete credentials. So then as I'm working with my clients, and they've gone to like an Ivy League undergrad in an Ivy League grad school, and meanwhile, they're like, “Oh, that's nothing.” That's like they blow it off. So even a concrete credentials are sometimes hard for them to hold on to. But you know, they have to kind of work on sort of being able to recognize they are meaningful. They do mean something to—if they don't mean something to you right now, they need something to the outside world, and they are worth something. And so that can be even hard, even with the concrete things. Oftentimes, with impostor, to dismiss them as well.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. That's like, really be aware of the credentials and the expertise and the skill set that you are bringing into a situation and resist the temptation to like, “Ah, that doesn't matter, but that doesn't…” Yeah.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yes
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Right?
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That's really good. Wonderful. And then, okay, so then let's dive a little bit more deeply into the experience, though. Say, you know, like so many people that you and I have both spoken wit—intelligent, accomplished, educated, experienced—all this stuff, yet struggle to feel like they really know what they're doing. What is that about? For most people in your experience, what does that even come from?
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: It's about a variety of things. You know, so a lot of people say very kind of colloquially, like, “Oh, it's just about internalizing your accomplishments. And if you just say some positive affirmations, you can make it go away”.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Like it's easy.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Like it's easy. But oftentimes, there's some pretty deep rooted sort of early childhood experiences that come along with that and so one of them is sort of these ideas of these very like calcified, very narrow roles in the family, where you’re either considered the smart one, and if you were considered a smart one, it meant you didn't have to work hard at anything, everything should come easy and natural to you. So when things did come natural easy to you, you thought it was evidence of the fact that everyone was wrong, and you truly we're not as gifted or intelligent people thought you were.
The second role is this idea of you were the one who was never naturally gifted in anything but knew how to work hard, and so everything must come hard, everything must require like an extreme level of effort and work in order for it to be successful. And in those cases, it's very hard for you to even see that you might have any natural talents or skills.
And the third one is an experience where there weren't a lot of adults or parental figures around, and you had to survive. Your successes were about survival, they were about you know, sometimes, putting food on the table or making sure you did well in school, so you know, you could stay in the graces of somebody, or like it really sort of required you're very vigil, you have an incredible vigilance on your achievements, so that you could actually be successful, so that you could survive this all. So even for them in the C suite and still be like, “Any day this could all be gone.” You know, so.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Wow. And all of those are difficult experiences, but I'm hearing you say that there's like these internal core beliefs. And like in the case of the first two, if the experience of what it actually takes to be successful isn't in alignment with what you think it should feel like, with what success should feel like, that will create kind of confusion and damage people's confidence that it's, no, it's actually okay. And then also in that third one, certainly, it's just like being chased by wolves experience that it's like, any second now, it’s just gonna leave.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, you can’t let it down. Yeah, you can't let the guard down any time, it could all be taken from you, which is the experience that early childhood survivor experience. There's all kinds of other additional connect correlations, like codependence is correlated to, you know, having a codependent family dynamic is correlated to impostor syndrome. So is having a narcissistic family member, usually parental adult figure. A family that was focused on achievements only and nothing else, so that only your achievements got recognized as valuable, or you got seen as valuable in those moments. So, you know, families that have trouble dealing with high assets, and so there's a lot of sort of correlations to impostor syndrome.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. So many, many paths to that same destination. But you know, I had the most interesting experience. I think it was a couple of weeks ago, we, on Instagram of course because, you know, but we shared…it wasn't a story from our account, somebody else had done this little drawing, and it was a drawing of like a little stick figure and four mountains, and the stick figure had successfully scaled and come down on the other side of like three mountains and was like close to the top of the fourth and was like, “I can't do it. I'm a failure.” And you know, just like the kind of black, white, but you've done all of these, and I think like the fourth mountain was even smaller or something. And so we put this at our stories, and I seriously had like so many people, including a number of current clients of mine. Reach out to me—”I so identify with that drawing,” and I think what that kind of captures that in some ways, it's like despite all of these achievements and successes and strengths and abilities and competence, and like you have all these people who maybe perceive you as being this person who's like doing all these great things, and you haven't done all these great things, like it doesn't get in all the way emotionally.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: And it's because of the impostor cycle. Because in the impostor cycle, you have like a highly visible event or performance or something, you know, that's pretty visible or something that's new for you, then you know, you get performance anxiety, and as a result, you either overwork or you self-sabotage, and then you get the feedback. You don't internalize any of the feedback unless it's negative, and if it's negative, we blow it out.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That we let in. Blow it out of proportion, does that what you mean?
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah. It becomes even way bigger than that, and then you also internalize it, and then you don't internalize any of the positive feedback or in the positive experiences, and you get in that cycle all over again. So that idea of the four hills makes sense because once they see the hill again, it's like if they've never seen the other three hills, you know, because they haven't done any of the work to internalize all the positive feedback. The hill becomes, it's like climbing it for the first time. Yeah.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Wow. So the cycle, so big events, lots of anxiety, overworking, like killing yourself to make it good, and then what was the next phase of that cycle?
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: The next phase is you get some kind of feedback after you perform. You get some feedback.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: 500 people are like, “That was amazing.”
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: But one person
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: One person was like, “I don't know.”
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah. And that's the one you listen to, and that's the one that sort of gets out of the proportion. If everyone says, “It's great,” you still minimize it. You still are like, “Well,” then you get caught up in your own assessments of all the mistakes and places where you made errors, and that's what you're taking in. And then you kind of get right back into the cycle again the next time. It happens, it happens as if it never happened before.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Oh, my goodness. What a painful place to be. And so, it really, it sounds like, I mean, the thing that I'm hearing the loud and clear between the lines here is that this experience is very much one of perceptions rather than reality and perceptions that maybe have been shaped by experiences in early childhood.
And so then, and I know from your work, and what you've written about in your book, kind of walks people through beginning to reevaluate those perceptions and shift those perceptions, and I'm sure that it is a process. I mean, if you've had that sort of relationship with the world since earliest childhood, and you're not going to snap your fingers, like, “Four easy steps to…” Yeah, but so, you know, with cautioning people that it's going to sound much easier than when we talk about it than it actually has to do, right. Now, what are some of the growth moments that people need to work through in order to release this—this pattern, this dynamic?
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, and I think it's good, it's great that you point out the fact that it is a long process and, you know, nobody likes to hear this, but I sort of know it is a lifelong process because I've talked about my own TED Talk that I've had impostor syndrome, and I still get triggered for, you know, on a number of occasions, I just make different choices now with the trigger. As opposed to the ones that I used to make when I was in the throes of it. And so I think, you know, one of the things we've talked about, which we were just talking about is really understanding the origin, how it uniquely got to be your story based on some of the origin issues that are sort of laid forth, how you understand them, where have you identified this in your own experience. The reason why the origin issues are so important to us is because it really helps us to understand the triggers in the here and now. So oftentimes, those triggers that we experienced in our day to day lives come from those earlier experiences, and it becomes easier to identify when you know you have vulnerability for them. And it doesn't become so surprising why these things are happening, you're like, “Oh, I get it now.” It just gives you a sort of agency and power to feel like, “This is not so mysterious anymore.” What's a piece of it, I think another piece of it is around really learning how to restore your narrative and choose the words and the ways that you tell yourself the stories around what's happening to you and really kind of examining and listening to the way that you're storing the narrative and then kind of picking and choosing different ways to tell the story.
We also talked about sort of getting triggered for automatic negative thoughts and how to kind of rationally respond to your automatic negative thoughts, be able to identify them, categorize them, and then also be able to respond to them differently than you use to respond to them. Rather than you know, I love the Amit Ray quote like, “You are not your thoughts; you are the observer of your thoughts,” and sort of teaching people to be the observer of their thoughts and being able to kind of construct a new way of responding to them. It's also about. you know, really embedding self-care. When we have impostor syndrome, the person that we take care of last is us, which means last around our dreams, last around our self-care, last around everything. And so it's such an important thing to kind of reprioritize that and think about how we'd like to live in the way that we care for ourselves. It's also about for us, you know, building a team around you. So, you know, oftentimes we suffer in this alone, and it's beginning to kind of tell people that we struggle with it, share it, like find a team around us that really know how to help us kind of move the needle forward.
So those are some of the things that we talk about, but you know, these are like, they're easy. Like you said, they're easy to kind of like say, but they're much harder to do, to institutionalize, to make them part of the new way that you live.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah, no, I absolutely get that. And yet, they're also powerful. You know, self-awareness, being able to observe what is going on between your ears being, able to have a way of responding to that, that's healthier for you. I especially like the strategy that you brought up around building a community, and I don't know if this was true for you, but I know for me personally, I think most therapists probably have this experience. We first start seeing clients, you have this moment where you're like, “Is this okay?”
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: “What am I doing here?”
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: I know.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: “Who let me do this?”
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Exactly, right. And I remember just in my cohort, my peers, you know, like to have a group of people who I perceived just being very, you know, smart and competent, probably much more so than me being like, “I feel like such a fraud right now. Like I said XYZ in my session, and they believed it, like what is going on?” and just like to have that moment of like, “Ah, it's not just me. I think it’s actually the experience.”
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: It's so powerful. I mean, I think, you know, when I see on my Instagram page, you know, different places where people would admit, they'll tag each other and admit that they have impostor syndrome. And there's such a powerful dynamic, you know. It happen, people say, “Oh, my god, I didn't realize you had it too.” And, you know, the stat I think is that 70% of people have experienced impostor syndrome in their life, and I just saw a new study that just came out that said 82% of people, so it seems to be going up. And so I think a lot of people have experienced, and I think oftentimes, we're hiding in this shame that if we share being that we have this that we will actually be found out as a fraud. It would be like, “You don't have impostor syndrome. You're actually an impostor.” And so I think there is a lot of like, quiet-shameful retreating into this. And I think the other thing I hear a lot is that people say, when I tell people I have impostor syndrome, they're like, “Get over yourself. You're so successful. Like, are you kidding me?” Like, you know, people dismiss it and don't recognize the pain it is to sit in that and how difficult it is to sit in that experience. So it's so important to have a community around you that really got it. I talked about it in our book, like having different people who fit different roles, like somebody who's like the cheerleader and somebody who's the grounder and somebody who's the big picture, like a variety of people who hold different types of roles for you.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: That is a fantastic idea, that there's different kinds of people in your life that can help you in different ways. But that's very interesting, though I wasn't familiar with that statistic, so that 82% of people have this experience, which is basically everybody. That idea that, you know, you brought up another such important thing, which is that when we like—believe what shame is trying to tell us, that we're like uniquely horrible somehow, it's very, like people hide that. They hide it.. They don't talk about it. What I'm hearing you say is that the most direct path to just blowing this out of the water is talking about how you feel and addressing it openly
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yep, taking the ownership of it, meeting it on head-on. Because the other thing that's weird about impostor syndrome is that people like to hold on to it because they believe in some ways the impostor syndrome has got them where they are at. So they sort of believe like, “If I let go of this or I start to admit it, I let go of it, I'm going to have nothing. Everything is going to crumble around me.” So they've come to believe the impostor syndrome is like their best friend, and so letting go is a very difficult process. And having people around, you know you're struggling with it makes it easier to kind of be like, “Don’t hold on to it. Let's do this instead,” like, you know, somebody who can really understand how to re-pivot those thoughts, you know, and in vivo.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: But that's so interesting. And, you know, I've heard of that idea, like as it relates to perfectionism, like people believing that their anxiety is what makes them be okay and to release it feels incredibly scary, and you're saying the same thing with impostor syndrome. “If I believe that maybe I actually am okay, and I am actually good enough, I will stop trying as hard as I am. And as soon as that happens, I will be the failure that I fear my else to be.”
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yep, that I’m always scared that I would be. You're not, I think the reason why you point to a really good, you know, an example of that is that perfection underlies impostor syndrome. So perfectionism is a piece of impostor syndrome, and it's very central to it, oftentimes.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. Now, and can I just briefly, and I know we're coming up on time here, I would love to like go deeper into that 82% statistic, and I don't know if that's broken down, but like when I think about the people that I have known—you know, of course, in addition to myself—who have had this experience, like thinking about clients, for whom it's like a major ongoing struggle. I think that while some people—many people, most people—feel this way from time to time, for others, it's a bigger deal than it is, and it's harder for them to release these feelings. And when I think about in my own practice of people that that has been true for are, specifically, women, and I think even more specifically than that—women who are people of color or in maybe a different—were raised in a different socioeconomic class than the one in which they are now functioning. I have certainly, you know, seen it in men as well but to a lesser degree, and I'm wondering, in your experience as a therapist but also as a black woman, do you perceive this experience being different or sometimes more challenging or internalized in a different way?
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: So I think you're getting to a really bunch of interesting points. What some of the research reveals for men and women is that when men and women deal with it differently. The data around it has been quite like equivocal. It's like sometimes, it's more women, sometimes, it’s more men. They can sort of figure out whether it's more women or more men, but what they have been able to see is that, generally, women are more counterphobic. So women will face the fear, go headlong, go into it, and then just live in the constant like paralyzation of the impostor syndrome. They'll like be paralyzed internally, but they'll still go forward professionally,. Where men, tend to do a lot more saving face, and so they will underperform or be in a place where they can be top of the heap, and so that they feel less threat of their impostor syndrome. They felt less prone to it because they’re putting us in the situations where they're less at threat.
For people of color, women, first gen, what we see is that both the internal experience of impostor syndrome and then the external experience that, “You are actually an impostor. You don't belong here.” So you get these internal messages that you're trying to shut down, and then the outside world is telling you, “No you don't belong here. No, you’re a token. No, you got in because of affirmative action. No, you got this. No, you got that.” So it's very, it's specifically harder to deal with because you don't get enough external reinforcement from the outside world that you do belong. And so what a lot of the research suggests is that you need to find community along the identity dimension that you feel like a preston.
So if it's that you're black, it’s finding more black people in that particular field or in that particular area, both at your level and above your level, that help you to kind of navigate the waters and help you to deal with the external pressures that are coming at you. So that becomes, like we were talking about before, community becomes so important in managing the external invalidations that you're receiving, that are telling you you are an impostor. “No, you should believe that impostor syndrome. You don't belong here. Work harder. Work twice as hard. Work three times.” So it is sort of getting a community around that, so that you can deal with sort of what's happening structurally to you that is real and that is attempting to make you feel invalidated.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. That is so beautifully said and just like the challenge of doing this inner work and changing this inner dialogue in the face of external circumstances that almost like I want to agree with that negative injury in terms of that dialogue.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: I want to reinforce it
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Yeah, and how much more difficult even that is. And I could see how having a community of people who's able to kind of like be a healthy supportive chorus to kind of counterbalance all these other voices is essential, and to be isolated in the face of that is probably about the worst thing.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, that's what you don't want to let happen is become isolated, which can be happening in a lot of these circumstances, where you can feel very alone.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Well, important message. Well, thank you so much for spending time with me today. This has been a very interesting conversation, and I wish we had more time. I'm sure my listeners wish they had more time with you too. And so if you guys would like to learn more about Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin and her practice, her practice is called Dynamic Transitions Psychological Consulting. Her website is dynamictransitionsllp.com. And on your website you have access, of course, to your book, which is called Own Your Greatness: Overcome Impostor Syndrome, Beat Self-Doubt, and Succeed in Life. And I think I noticed an online course kind of walking people through your material as well.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Yeah, it'll be an online course. The first one will start in September, and it will be in beta. So we'll take a small cohort of people during that time before mid-September. So yeah, so people who are interested, that also is on my website.
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby: Wonderful. Well, thank you again so much for joining me today. This has been a lot of fun.
Dr. Lisa Orbé-Austin: Thank you so much for having me, Lisa. This was great.