"I just feel like I'm battling impostor syndrome all the time."
"This project is proving I can do this job, so any little mistake feels like I'm not capable."
"It's like I've had the wind knocked out of me."
All quotes from my female clients in the last week about work. The self-doubt and insecurity is stunting.
It's not a problem unique to women, but perhaps faced by women more often than men. Am I faking it? Do I really know what I'm doing? Am I not getting a promotion because I'm a woman? Will I get fired if I mess this up? Shouldn't I be more confident in myself?
It's easy to feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and insecure. Unchecked, these thoughts of inadequacy and insecurity turn into anxiety. Suddenly every task feels daunting, there's no way to get started, and the world feels heavy and scary.
Working with a trusted professional therapist can help remove these roadblocks, empowering you to move forward with confidence and ease.
Self-compassion, where one extends compassion to themselves in instances of struggle, failure, or inadequacy, can be a tremendous therapeutic tool. Instead of ignoring or piling on to pain, it's reminding yourself how difficult this is right now, and asking yourself what you can do to comfort yourself.
Dr. Kristin Neff, the leading researcher of self-compassion, has identified three key components to self-compassion:
- self-kindness - being warm and kind toward yourself in times of personal failings instead of critical and judgmental.
- common humanity - recognizing that we all make mistakes. Suffering is part of the human experience.
- mindfulness - a non-judgmental, receptive mind state that allows you to have a more balanced approach to emotions
The more you open your heart to disappointments, frustrations, personal failings, and imperfections, the kinder you are to yourself and others.
In the therapy room, I use self-compassion on client's who are intensely critical of themselves. I often ask questions like, "How can you be kinder to yourself?" or "What would you say to a friend who was experiencing the same thing?" I'm aiming to pull the client out of their destructive thinking cycle and introduce a more compassionate and kinder way of thinking.
Test it out for yourself. Take the quiz to see how self-compassionate you are.
A recent survey from CareerCast, a job-hunting website, finds unpredictability is the greatest cause of workplace stress in America.
"But that pervasive sense of insecurity comes in many forms, ranging from employees being tasked with new duties and sudden staff changes to unexpected shifts in company priorities. Other sources of stress that ranked nearly as high as unpredictability included workplace environment (21 percent) and deadlines (20 percent).
Among the professions that found unpredictability to be the biggest source of stress were those in academia (40 percent), engineering (33 percent) and customer service (30 percent), while only 15 percent of transportation workers found unpredictability to be a stress factor at work."
Managing stress in the workplace is difficult, but possible. Surrounding yourself with positive people, focusing on your accomplishments, and looking for opportunities to learn can improve your experience.
Knowing when to ask for help a brave and courageous step. How do you know when or if you need therapy?
We all experience a range of emotions, from happiness and excitement, to grief and stress, and none of this is necessarily problematic. However, if your emotions feel out of control or unmanageable, it's time to seek help from a psychotherapist.
If you struggle with regular eating, hear voices, or have difficulty sleeping through the night, it's time to seek help.
If your relationships are suffering, be it a parent/child relationship, spousal relationship, friendship, etc., it's time to seek help.
If you find yourself using (and/or abusing) substances to cope with unwanted feelings, it's time to seek help.
If you no longer find pleasure from activities you used to enjoy, it's time to seek help.
If a friend, family member, or loved one suggests you need help, it's time to seek help.
A trusted relationship with a mental health counselor can drastically improve your life.
I remember the first time my therapist asked me, "so what if that did happen?"
Six years later I don't even remember what we were talking about, but I remember exactly how it made me feel. Anxious. Silly. Stubborn. I knew the words coming out of my mouth sounded dumb, but it was how I knew the world to be. There was a way things should be. It's not supposed to be like this.
Knowing what I know now, I realize just how rigid my thoughts were. I'm forever indebted to that graduate student intern who nudged me into a less stressful way of being.
One of the first things I share with new clients is the Unhelpful Thinking Styles worksheet shown below. It covers several ways our mind traps us, from black and white thinking, to ignoring truths, and emotional reasoning. Just knowing the unhelpful thinking styles sometimes isn't enough. Having a therapist to catch you in these traps and challenge you to break free can bring relief almost instantly.