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  • Writer's pictureRyan Silver

Episode 2 - Living up to Imposter Syndrome

Updated: May 20, 2022

Is that inner self doubt getting in the way of your true potential?

Episode 2 Transcript

Welcome to episode 2. Thank you for being here, pull up a seat and enjoy.

"Think you are and you will be, if it is negative let it go."

Failure is life, it is inevitable. Get up and do it again with what you learnt from the first time. Believing in you is your path to success.

Living With Imposter Syndrome

Good morning, Good evening and Good day to everyone out there listening to me on this fine fine day, My name is Ryan Silver and I’m coming to you with another episode of my Podcast CANNING SHAME.

I would like to welcome back all those that listened to my first episode, you are greatly appreciated and I hope you keep coming back. For all first time listeners out there, a huge thank you for joining me today.

So Shame, why shame? Shame is an emotion that no one wants to feel at anytime. In fact we go out of our way to avoid situations that we perceive as shame inducing. However, shame is something that we carry with us, yes all of us, no one is exempt here, shame is an insecurity we hold about ourselves and within ourselves. My hope is to can that, to kick the unhealthy level of shame to the kerb.

Now, I did get a little feedback on my 1st episode. That I rushed through who I am a little to fast. My achievements in my career are interesting but I raced through without taking a breathe. Yes, yes I know I tend to do that. It stems from years of fighting for my place at the table. And I’ll tell you the fight for me is never over.

So lets go back over who Ryan Silver is…

Who is this person Ryan Silver, Who am I? what can I teach you about shame? Well I’m a Forensic Behavioural Criminologist with 20+ years under my belt. A career I pursued after the death of my son, Connor. Prior too I was an artist, an art teacher. However, after what transpired from the death of my son, I turned to Behavioural science focusing on criminal psychology to understand why, could I have stopped it?. So you see I not only study insecurities and behaviour I have lived well within shame. Oh yes I have and I do, as I said no one is exempt from shame, discrimination and labels.

Now, what do I do as a Forensic Behavioural Criminologist? Well this field of study covers an array of areas in the scope of criminal behaviour, it takes it to a more in-depth level, hence the forensic. I started as a behavioural analyst: where I spoke to people about why they made the decision they did in their everyday life, my agenda was to see if their was any triggers, impacting factors affecting rational decision making, and draw it together to identify if any patterns emerge where referals could help, then I went on to be a behavioural investigator: I would take statements from everyone involved in an incident and compare them to validate or identify disparinces and interrogate further to find a reasonable truth, then I became a criminal profiler, then a criminal psychologist: most know what I done here, there are enough shows out there for an understanding. I would assess if someone was capable of a crime, standing trial or being released, to then a forensic criminologist till I gained the title Forensic Behavioural Criminologist. My last role was as a forensic criminologist, however, I loved it so much I didn’t move on, I attended fatality scenes and performed autopsies. I was in the grit of it, up to my elbows, removing brains and holding hearts in my hands. There isn’t really anything I haven’t seen. After seeing the most vicious killings and the most bizarre death scenes not much shocks me now. When I say that, I refer to what we humans can do to each other in a physical violent capacity. However, what still shocks me is what people can do to people on a behavioural level on an everyday basis and defend that behaviour, on what people believe is acceptable in how we treat one and another with the things we say.

We hear a lot of psychology terms and buzz words going around now, like gaslit, narcissist and sociopath. There’s a new Netflix show starring Julia Roberts called Gaslit on at the moment actually and enough quizzes online to see if you are a narcissist or a sociopath or both. With a recommendation you seek help from a mental health care professional for anyone that’s scored high. But, seriously if someone is a narcissist or a sociopath do you think an online quiz is what they would do, or answer honestly if they did attempt one? A narcissistic personality is someone that sees themselves above all others in all arenas and seeks power, wealth and status, they lack empathy towards others and will always see themselves as entitled, unable to see why others can’t see that. They will seek to squash the ones that don’t stand below throwing praise up at them. Their self impression of themselves is so scewed that they can’t answer online quizzes honestly. Narcissistic can be thrown around too easily now, its not a trait that can be labelled onto someone by a single incident or by someone repeating it enough to make it true. Narcissism has to be diagnosed by professionals through various tests and evaluations from the DSM. Being on social media with the selfies and likes does not make someone a narcissist. A narcissist is a very dangerous person to get on the wrong side off, especially at work. We’ve all worked with them. We see a pattern in their behaviours, it isn’t a one off or limited to one area of their life.

Now narcissism is the opposite off another personality trait we see in our careers. Who has heard of imposter syndrome??? It is another one out there that has been flung around but hasn’t quite stuck to the wall like spaghetti as gaslit and narcissist have. But, people with imposter syndrome can be mistakenly labelled as a narsaccist due to the lack of true understanding of what a narcissist is.

Where narcissists are take 90 give 10, imposter syndrome sufferers are take 10 and give 90, they flip side it. They go to extremes in tasks. They don’t feel entitled to unwarranted recognition for just being them. They struggle to accept recognition when it is warranted, even though they are seeking that recognition with every ounce of their being, they still struggle to accept it. To get that recognition they want and need to go the extra length to succeed at a project, job or task. Any mistake, no matter how small is a failure. They have to be perfect.

Imposter syndrome is a term full of toxicity. It’s a term that was formed in the late 70s, by Pauline Clance. A term that has been flung around the gender arena more than a football, does it affect males more than females? is it a female phenomena? Are males better than females at it? I don’t feel this is a game of gender that any side would want to win, it’s a horrible way to feel. Although It is a label that is known for being flung onto females by colleagues and managers to explain away other serious issues around bias. It is deflecting the real issues there. We’ll be going into bias’s in other episodes. For now we will stick to Imposter syndrome.

The key triggers to imposter syndrome are new challenges, such as successfully gaining that promotion, fear will kick in that they are inadequate of such a challenge, they wont meet what is expected of them. A family environment where there is competition between siblings or what came easy to them as a child is now becoming more challenging, they start to doubt their abilities, especially if they were labelled as a gifted child. The anxiety of always having to achieve with such ease will grow with the doubt. Already having a predisposition to depression and anxiety and it has been shown that people of marginalised groups are at high risk, due to prolonged discrimination.

There is a reason I am going on about this. I get it, this is why I rush through my credentials and experience, I myself live not so comfortably in imposter syndrome. I suffer from shame of not feeling good enough. With every credential I gain it does not shift that shame, even though I started that particular course with the intention of showing people with gaining those letters and title that I am capable and worthy of their respect, that I am capable of that job title and role. That I am capable, I am more than what they see. But, with all the oohs and aaaahhhhs I get when I tell someone what I do for a living the shame doesn’t lift. I feel like an imposter. But, I am in good company, others such as Michelle Obama and Facebooks Sheryl Sandberg have come out with the same feelings as I.

So lets strip it back and look deeper at what imposter syndrome is and what we can do about it.

Mostly associated with career. Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon where we feel like a fraud, impacting anyone from new students to established professionals. Over the years it has been conceptualised as a marginalised group issue but, really, it impacts any individual, it is a being human issue.

We feel shame in who we are because we cannot internalize that we have achieved the recognition we receive through our own merits and achievements, we feel it was just dumb luck or a failure by others in not seeing us pulling the wool over their eyes. We doubt we can do it again.

This idea is detrimental to a persons well being and in most cases will impact their career.

So why do we doubt ourselves so much that imposter syndrome became a thing. Well naturally we blame family, the family background that creates or establishes the traits in us, such as perfectionism. We’ve all heard of eldest, middle and the baby of the family syndrome and what it does for their future emotional growth and adjustment. There’s the families that value achievement above all else, I’ve stood at the kinders, parks, schools and bbq of parents of adults and heard the same lines…my child does abc, well my child does abc and xyz and it goes on and on till the battle of best child has travelled to moon while curing cancer on the way. This competition will only have a negative impact on all involved. It will cause behaviours that either praise the child too much too often making them over sure of themselves or desperate for that praise at all times so much so they start questioning themselves, it restricts open communication and creates controlling behaviours causing conflict. The families that have no interest in their child’s achievements or abilities on the other hand, like they are never good enough or just don’t notice due to distraction in other areas of their lives. These situations usually create a need to impress, a need for attention and dependency on peoples opinion, advice or feedback along with the conflict from the restriction of open communication. Sounds like tight rope for parents to walk. But heres the gag…there is no set rule, all kids and environments are different, being self aware, reasonable and well balanced will create a well balanced child.

Family support is key in the success of a well balanced child going through adolescence. Adolescence is the prime time in our life’s that we suffer the most self doubt, being able to express our feelings and emotions and resolve conflict with rational approaches within the family unit is pivotal at this time. If family support isn’t conducive then this self doubt can mutate into a malignant self doubt.

Self doubt is linked to anxiety and social anxiety, just as imposter syndrome. But, the self doubt has to be pervasive enough to become imposter syndrome, persuasive enough it generates fear in you. Meaning you don’t go for that job you’ve trained for, that promotion you worked towards, or enter that competition that displays your talents or even just raise your thoughts in a meeting. That is being persuaded by your doubt you aren’t good enough and you are an imposter.

Don’t get me wrong, Self doubt is a norm, and there’s nothing wrong with it, it is a natural emotion to have, it is about how often you have that self doubt. Is your self doubt in a normal range, when expected, at such times when you are going on a first date, posting that not so perfect funny pic on social media, talking out in class or going to an interview, or is it a constant nagging that you talk back too?

There is no test for imposter syndrome but we know how we feel and what it is doing to us. Understanding our actions and reactions is key to taking the power back to avoid the detrimental impact it could have on our career and relationships.

Despite objective success, chronic feelings of inadequacy and incompetence still circle me like a shark. But not allowing it to bite is my power.

For me Its clear my cause of imposter syndrome is environmental, family and friends. I get the trifecta.

From a family of no earners on a council scheme prevalent to violence with a local school that refused to educate the kids of single mums, which didn’t matter much anyway as my family didn’t believe in education, to a husband that told people that I was dumb and never to play any trivia with me and finally to my friendships that labelled me as flaky, then post divorce a flaky single mum. Meaning not so bright and not a stable foundation for my kids.

Fast-forward to now, the key moment for me realising I needed to stop and take stock of what I’m doing was when a close friend of 18 years recently asked me to prove to them that I had the qualifications I said I had by showing them my certificates. I was taken a back, but I did, I got my testamurs out and showed them off, they were still in the cardboard packaging they came in, I never took them out or displayed them. At that point she said ‘oh, you really do have them’ took a pic and started txting…ye what? Come again? That asking of me to PROVE to them and then what they said and done on my doing so, triggered me. It was like a film reel of memories, flashbacks that ran through my head, an on switch for the projector of moments where I should have seen this coming all compounded on me at once. And at that point I realised I had an issue here, an issue with myself that is causing an issue with how people see me, that I could identify from a young age. See how I blamed myself, not just calling that person out as a bad friend. Which they are!

Anyway after a good cry I noted all the comments, questions, back handed remarks and body language between people I would have been talking too, to see a pattern. Those closest to me didn’t believe I was doing the work I was doing or achieving the qualifications I was, I felt like shit, all this time they have thought of me as a liar, which explains so much! The passing comments from people in my friends circle, like how did you get a job like that? When would you have done those courses with kids and work? Why would they employ you? Isn’t that role more basic than you are making out? I’m surprised at some of the things that come out of your mouth, they where smart. I had been characterised by my status as a single mother, how I looked and my gender to be labelled negatively. Well, jeez thanks. Note…being a single mother or a mother does not mean you have reached your quota in growth, intelligence and drive. I realised then, years to late, I wasn’t just doing the constant studying, the achieving of qualifications and jobs roles, just for me, I was doing it for them. To get these comments to change, to get their approval that I am smart. MY character was controlled by what they thought of me.

Now…With imposter syndrome there are 5 types of character traits that allow it to bread within us.

1. the perfectionist – if mistakes are made no matter how small, then it is a failure, brings shame, shame of failure. They experience high levels of anxiety, doubt and worry, setting themselves goals above and beyond the scope of the task at hand. They will only focus on the areas they feel they could have done better rather than celebrate their achievement.

2. The natural genius – who has to master various and many skills quickly and easily, if it doesn’t come easy or they fail on the first attempt the feeling of shame surfaces from embarrassment. Embarrassment they didn’t look like they just knew the topic of hand.

3. The solo individualist –they need to prove their self worth through working alone, the idea of asking for help or support brings on shame from inadequacy. They cannot imagine allowing someone to see them trying to master or do a task, the possibility of triggering shame of inadequacy is too much for them.

4. The expert – the need to over prepare, to know everything about a topic, bringing on shame of not knowing enough instantly to do the project, causing a delay in the production or completion of a task, this personality is where we see procrastinators. .

5. The superhero – the fixer or workaholic, will put in more than required energy into everything, leading to burnout that impacts their mental health and relationships, bringing on shame from not being able to succeed at every role.

I myself see me in all 5…You’d think I’m screwed lol but I’m not!

Summing me up….I am a person that is a jack of all trades, I am a tradie to a professional to a counsellor, I will do all tasks given to me always on my own, I cannot let anyone see me do, study or research something, allowing them to think I don’t know, I set speed challenges within myself against myself, I will research the littlest detail out of any task and attempt to put it together in a perfect form before I will let others see.

For example…In one of the forensic mortuaries I worked at, my autopsies where booked in the day prior, I would then spend this day out of prying eyes in my office getting every ounce of paperwork together, legal and medical, studying them for the finest detail about this person, that’s the expert in me. I would have them in a pristine order on my clipboard. They were all in the database under precise numbering system, I would challenge myself to get them in there before anyone knew they needed done. Even though I knew the paperwork was done, I would go back and recheck over and over, the perfectionist in me. After everyone had left for the day I would stay back and go into the mortuary. There I would set up for the autopsies the next day. This task usually done as a team in the morning off was the superhero in me. I would admire my work before turning the light off and heading home. Autopsy day I would be first in, ready in my scrubs with any further information that came in through the night examined ready for the autopsy, looking relaxed and ready to go to my colleagues, who are unaware of the prep I had put in, was the natural genius in me. I would internally challenge myself to a timely efficiency in all factors of the autopsy, and after with cleaning I would tell my colleagues to go chill, I got this. And aim to have the shiniest, best stocked and orderly mortuary you had seen with me still looking relaxed and pristine, I would change from the mortuary to the office to hide the bubble mishaps, the soloist in me.

Because those closest to me questioned my professional credentials and qualifications I also noted how I am at work and whether I had similar behavioural experiences from colleagues and management.

Well, YATZEE, or BINGO for non Yahtzee players. I saw the pattern. I could see what my internal beliefs on competency where doing to me within my career. It wasn’t all imposter syndrome, at work it was actually more to do with discrimination bias, but we’ll go into that in another episode. Within my career I held myself back through the doubt I had in myself due to my friends idea of who I was, I done great jobs but always well under the level I should have been at. I stayed myself at a level where I knew for sure I would soar. The idea of going higher brought the self doubt in, through the form, if the people closest to me don’t think I can then can I , am I over valuing my studies?

Understanding the causation of these behaviours is the key to controlling it, my causation was I needed others approval of my worth. I desired those closest to me to see that I’m not dumb, I believed that qualifications and job titles would get their respect. But, because I done everything as a soloist and wanted to be that natural perfect superhero genius I didn’t allow those closest to me to participate in my growth. And I ended up evolving beyond theses relationships.

So how do you over come imposter syndrome, lay those fears of being seen as a fraud to rest. First acknowledge the feelings, feelings are great, you feel alive but they are not set in stone, they are a response of your limbic system, being fear it is mainly the amygdala that has triggered your response and its up to you with your frontal lobe to validate those feelings or send them packing. The amygdala learns, it is up to you to retrain it through retraining your frontal lobe, learn to naturally reframe the situations, best way write them down, keep a journal, as I done after my friend stunned me. Paying close attention to the WHY…why am I feeling this way? Now restructure your cognitive thinking by writing down the positive experiences and/or affirmation you received around the situation that triggered your fears.

Work on an action plan, how will you deal with theses thoughts next time. What will I need in place to do something about it. I personally take a deep breathe in and out, followed by saying Fuck it while I push send or walk in. Obviously I weigh up the worst that can happen, worst is I wont get the job or no one will listen to my podcast. In the grand scale its not the end of me, it wont result in physical injury. I will just keep trying.

If you have supportive people around you, reach out, talk to others. Be selective. You may be surprised how many others feel the same.

Work on who you really are. Be open and true, it's just between you and the pen. Those that truly succeed in life and career focus on their talents, using them to the fullest. What are yours? Lets do an exercise on your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Break a page down to the four categories. Leaving modesty behind, and being objective as you can In strengths write down what advantages you have in skills, education or contacts. What achievement are you most proud of? Where do you excel above others? What are the strengths others see in you?

In weaknesses be the same and get realistic, what you see as a weakness might not be true of you, So work out what you avoid? What people around yu will see as a weakness in you? What habits are negatively impacting you, such as time management, sleeping habits or mood, such things. Is there a genuine fear holding you back. Many people are scared of public speaking, that’s why there are classes everywhere to help overcome this. Can your fear be reframed like this?

This leads us into opportunities, what opportunities are out there to help you grow in your industry, new technology courses, public speaking classes, professional contacts. Do you see a gap in your market that you can take advantage off? If not, don’t stress, find local networking events, groups and conferences, attend local council educational business sessions, or educational classes. Is there a new role that will force you out of you comfort zone and force you to learn something new, to challenge you.

Have these opportunities reduce your weaknesses.

Lastly what are your threats, apart from your own self doubt that is. Be, rational here, what actual issues or obstacles are you facing at work? What projects are at threat of going to a colleague instead, and why? What can you do to overcome them positively.

Understanding your true abilities in strengths and weaknesses will remove the need to worry about your capabilities.

Get to grips that perfectionism does not exist. I personally walk away from my books, downloads and word, I watch an episode of Frasier, to reset myself, to reframe my cognitive thinking, that I can do this, I know it, I’m not missing any info, I can’t say everything 6 different ways to reach everyone, I can only put out a good episode that covers the topic in one way of talking, my way, its me expressing and that is ok, its good enough and I will get better with every episode I create, we have to start somewhere. Live is about learning, taking risks, trying new things and learning from mistakes. We grow from our experiences.

So own your successes, get out there and celebrate them, take the praise and take mental note or journal that positive feedback.

This whole episode is due to what could be seen as negative feedback on my first episode, I could have stopped there and hid under a rock, never to enter another podcast world again, screaming it wasn’t perfect, but I decided not to see it as negative but as constructive feedback and what came from that thinking is amazing, an opportunity came from it. This episode was meant to be on Vicarious Trauma but instead I naturally flowed into imposter syndrome and let you all see a bit more of me, a side of me that is vulnerable. A side of me I have taken control off by working through my own imposter syndrome issues.

I hope this helps you and you get out there, take the world on and blossom into that incredible person you truly are.

Thank you for listening. Remember to Self Hug 💗

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