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Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Understanding Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is a shockingly common psychological phenomenon experienced by an estimated 70% of the population. Chances are you’ve probably had such a mindset at least once, but perhaps you couldn’t pinpoint the exact words to describe the feelings you had. Imposter syndrome, as defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), is where “highly accomplished, successful individuals paradoxically believe they are frauds who ultimately will fail and be unmasked as incompetent”. In other words, it’s when you feel like you aren’t worthy of what you have accomplished, and are not good enough to be where you are. Successes and accomplishments are thought to be attributed to sheer luck, rather than one’s actual skills and capabilities. While this psychological pattern was initially thought to be applicable to women and women only, studies over the years have shown that men are equally as susceptible to the same psychological pitfall. This phenomenon is rarely spoken of –  individuals with imposter syndrome usually suffer in silence, and this is a likely case of them being afraid to be exposed as a “phoney”. 

An expert on imposter syndrome and author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, Dr. Valerie Young categorises it into 5 main types: 

1. The Perfectionist

The broader definition of an imposter syndrome may sound superficially applied to intelligence and achievements, but as we delve deeper, we can see that it has close links to perfectionism as well. Perfectionists tend to set extremely high expectations for themselves, and for some even unrealistic ones. You may have heard something along the lines of “the higher the expectation, the greater the disappointment”, and this can hold true for these perfectionists. When expectations are set too high, these individuals tend to feel like a failure when they are thrown off by even the smallest mistakes or setbacks. Waves of self-doubt and inferiority can overcome them, making them feel like they are unable to measure up to other accomplished people when they overly fixate on their flaws. This group of people are thus also prone to developing anxiety due to the great deal of pressure they impose on themselves. 

2. The Superman / Superwoman

Individuals who fall under this category tend to overwork themselves (past the point of what’s really necessary) as they have convinced themselves deep down that they are phoneys. Fearing that they are unable to match up to real-deal colleagues, friends or family members, these people drown themselves in work in an attempt to achieve more. This can take the form of working extra long hours, feeling guilty and stressed whenever they’re not working, or feeling the need to sacrifice self-care for work. These are unfortunately merely false cover-ups for their insecurities, which may not even be a cause for concern. Needless to say, these individuals must take care not to over-exert themselves, as it can take a tremendous toll on their mental and physical health over time. 

3. The Expert

Experts base their competency levels on how much they know, or how much they can do. In a sense, they try to quantify their capabilities in order to prove their worth. Constantly haunted by the idea of not knowing enough, or being exposed to be unintelligent or underqualified, these people often underrate their current level of expertise. As such, they may strive to seek out additional trainings, certifications continuously and excessively in order to upgrade themselves and to attain success. Of course, there is no fault in focusing on self-improvement, but hoarding knowledge for false comfort isn’t the way to go.

4. The Natural Genius

This group of individuals are somewhat similar to the Experts, yet there are still slight differences between them. Instead of measuring their successes by how much they can do or know, these people measure their level of competence by the ease and speed of which they can achieve their goals. As the categorical name implies, these people believe that they need to be “natural geniuses”. They pressure themselves to achieve their goals fast, and if possible, on their first try. When plans fall through and they end up taking longer to master certain things, they start feeling an overwhelming sense of shame and worthlessness.

5. The Soloist

These people are highly individualistic – to the point where they feel like a failure whenever they have to seek help or assistance from others. They equate their self-worth to their productivity and ability to achieve results on their own. Hence, asking for assistance can seem like a sign of incompetency or weakness for them. 

For some, imposter syndrome can act as a motivational force for them to strive to achieve a better version of themselves. However, this can come at the cost of your mental wellbeing, developing into feelings of constant anxiety and even depression. A major issue with struggling with an imposter syndrome is that it deprives you of the ability to internalise your successes – you may very well be capable of achieving the goals you set, but the more you achieve, the more you feel like they were merely flukes. This brings us to our next point: how can we get past this imposter syndrome?

It is very important for us to first acknowledge our thoughts and put them in perspective. When you start feeling waves of insecurity, worthlessness and start downplaying your own abilities, try focusing on the facts. Focusing on the valid reasons and on your qualifications can help you see things in a different light, and realise that you’re truly deserving of your achievements. Let’s think this through – how many “flukes” will it take to convince you that you’re actually good at something? 

Instead of fixating on your mistakes alone, remember to celebrate your successes! We need to acknowledge that while we may occasionally miss the target, there will be times when we’ll hit the bullseye. A great start would be to start embracing your successes and allowing yourself to receive praise and recognition for them. For example, picture a scenario where someone commends or compliments you for achieving certain targets. A person with imposter syndrome would likely have an urge to ignore it, reject it, or simply brush it off awkwardly. However, the next time you encounter situations like these, try something new. Say “thank you”, bask in these moments and accept the recognition you deserve. 

Sharing your feelings with trusted friends and family members can be tremendously freeing too. Allow yourself to rely on your social network. Just as how others would approach you to share their feelings, rant, or to ask for assistance, don’t be afraid to seek them out when necessary. Bottling up your feelings can lead to further festering of negative, irrational beliefs that will ultimately do you more harm than good. Rest assured that seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness or incompetence. Alternatively, seek professional help from a mental health expert to help you break the cycle of imposter thinking, if you’re crippled by the fear of being found to be a phoney. Individual therapy can equip you with the tools to build on self-acceptance, confidence and to reframe your mindset to serve you better. At the end of the day, keep in mind that you’re not an imposter, you’re an original. 


References:

  1. Sakulku, J. (1). The Impostor Phenomenon. The Journal of Behavioral Science, 6(1), 75-97. https://doi.org/10.14456/ijbs.2011.6
  2. https://dictionary.apa.org/impostor-phenomenon (Accessed 13/05/2021)
  3. https://www.verywellmind.com/imposter-syndrome-and-social-anxiety-disorder-4156469 (Accessed 13/05/2021)

 

Can Sexual Behaviour Also Be Compulsive?

Can Sexual Behaviour Also Be Compulsive?

There is a proposed new law on exploitative sexual relationships – but can sexual behaviour also be compulsive?

The proposed new law in Singapore that will make sexually exploitative relationships a new offence, is controversial because it results in prison and corporal punishment. 

https://www.singaporelawwatch.sg/Results/what-constitutes-an-exploitative-sexual-relationship-proposed-law-on-new-sex-crimes-sparks-debate

Those suffering from compulsive sexual behaviour are urged to seek treatment before they become embroiled in criminal prosecution. 

The World Health Organisation has included compulsive sexual behaviour as a mental disorder in the recently published International Classification of Diseases, Edition 11. 

Do you have a persistent pattern, over 6 months or more, of being powerless over controlling intense, repetitive sexual impulses and urges, which result in repetitive sexual behaviour? Has this behaviour made your life, and the lives of loved ones, unmanageable? 

As with other addictions, the disorder results in neglecting health and personal care, family, work and other responsibilities. 

Typically, those with this compulsive  behaviour have made numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce it – but it continues, despite severely adverse consequences. 

Clinicians qualified in sex addiction treatment use validated and reliable questionnaires and detailed clinical histories to assess clients, in order to determine whether they have a sexual behaviour disorder. These clinical tools have high sensitivity in detecting the disorder. 

There are also clear therapeutic protocols to assist a client into and through recovery, substantially reducing the risk of re-offending behaviour. 

Contact Andrew da Roza, a qualified and trained addictions psychotherapist, at Promises Healthcare Pte. Ltd.

Do I Have a Sex Addiction? Is My Partner a Sex Addict?

Do I Have a Sex Addiction? Is My Partner a Sex Addict?

DO I HAVE A SEX ADDICTION?    IS MY PARTNER A SEX ADDICT? 


These questions become urgent when your or your loved ones’ repeated sexual behaviour cause you acute distress. 


It may be that you feel empty, frustrated, anxious, depressed or ashamed by your behaviour.  Or you may be a loved one who suddenly discovers their partner is sexually acting out, and you feel betrayed, angry, raging, resentful, humiliated, confused or depressed; and have nagging doubts about your own adequacy as a partner. You may be worried for your children and your family life. Your health – or your finances – may be in serious jeopardy.   


Not all sexual behaviour that causes you or a loved one suffering is a sex addiction – even if the suffering is profound and long lasting, or the behaviour is considered by others “deviant” or even “risky”. 
However, if it amounts to an sex addiction, there is a solution in recovery, and a loved one can play an important role. 


It is therefore important to know – is it an addiction?   
Once sexual behaviour is persistent, it sometimes becomes impossible for a person to know whether their behaviour has become compulsive, obsessive, impulsive or even dangerous or intrusive. 
People can become confused.

“There is a way through – and that is to take a clinical assessment and discuss the results with a professional therapist, trained in interpreting them. “


Is the behaviour continuing because they consciously choose not to change? Is it just “normal”, “natural”, “justifiable”, or “cultural”? Is it the loved ones or others who are mainly at fault, because they can’t or won’t give the sexual intimacy needed? Is it just “temporary” or “a one off”.

Is it just a product of some unusual circumstances – such as being in a new country, starting a new job, having a baby, going on business trips, or feeling bored, stressed, anxious, lonely, isolated, neglected, or depressed?     

If the behaviour has been persistent for a period of time, a person may think that it is safer than it really is, or that the risks of being found out, and the consequences, are minimal, manageable and within their control.

Sometimes a person my think that their chosen sexual partners are freely consenting, or that they enjoyed the experience – but  the truth is otherwise. 


Sometimes a person may lie, cover up, tell half truths and keep silent about their behaviour, because they want to protect their loved ones. They may not be willing to admit to themselves or others that they mainly wish to avoid the painful consequences of their behaviour.

After a while, they may even become confused or uncertain about what the real truth is. Being persistently deceitful and living a double life, can become a crushing burden.


There is a way through – and that is to take a clinical sex addiction assessment and discuss the results with a professional therapist, trained in interpreting them.

There are a number of assessments available online. However, some are not thorough or confidential enough, or they cause unnecessary alarm. Many do not provide a clear interpretation; and some do not provide a path towards a workable therapeutic solution.


The International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP) provide Certified Sex Addiction Therapists (CSATs) with an anonymised, online questionnaire, called the “Sexual Dependency Inventory – 4.0”. 
It takes a client 2 hours or so to complete, and a confidential, detailed client report is automatically generated for the therapist to view online – and subsequently share it with the client. 


The report compares the client’s responses with the responses of many thousands of other respondents, both with and without sex addiction, to gauge whether the sexual behaviour and preoccupation are likely to indicate a sex addiction.  


The report provides the client and therapist with a thorough review of the client’s: sexual behaviour and preoccupations; the consequences; the possible origins of the behaviour; and the potential future course and direction of the behaviour. 


The report also helps the client articulate their motivation to change their behaviour.  


This report is coupled with a subsequent clinical interview session, that assesses: sexual, medical and psychiatric history; family of origin history; education and employment history; intimate and social relationships; and other information. Together, this information permits clients and the therapist to determine the next steps. 


If the client’s behaviour is likely to amount to an addiction, the recovery path has been clearly mapped by the IITAP programme; and CSATs are trained and skilled in helping client’s navigate through their recovery using workbooks, videos, books, articles, and other therapeutic interventions.


The recovery path engenders great hope for those who start on it. Life gets better quickly, and keeps getting better with each recovery step that is conscientiously taken. 


What causes the greatest suffering is not knowing. Am I a sex addict? Is my partner a sex addict? 

Contact us today to take a free clinical assessment.