If you’re like me, you’ve heard this term before. You’ve also probably been unaware of it’s true meaning and depth. A friend of mine recently posted that her Impostor Syndrome was rearing it’s ugly head. Someone commented asking what it was and she explained. That was the moment I learned what the term actually means. I was shocked. Not only because it was nothing like what I thought it was, but because I actually had feelings like that too. I decided to start doing a little digging to find out more about Impostor Syndrome. I wanted to know who it effects and why. What I learned was actually pretty crazy. Impostor Syndrome effects approximately 70% of people worldwide. Yes, globally. Approximately 70% of the people on the entire planet suffer from this syndrome.
So, what is Impostor Syndrome? The short version is that the person believes their success isn’t warranted. The person believes that they don’t actually know enough to be working in the field they are in. They fear that one day they will be outed as a fraud. I struggle with this day in and day out, yet I always attributed it to low self esteem.
Traditionally Impostor Syndrome describes someone who thinks they don’t have the proper skills or knowledge to work in the field they are in. However, Impostor Syndrome can also affect abuse victims. Being told over and over again that you’re not good enough can take it’s toll. This is what I deal with. It may not actually be Impostor Syndrome, but I know the reason I think the way I do is because I was constantly told I’m no good.
A1 constantly told me I was a horrible wife. I wasn’t attentive to his needs. I didn’t clean the house properly. According to him it was my fault he cheated on me, because I wasn’t a good enough wife. There were even times he would challenge my parenting skills. He’d make me feel like I wasn’t a proper mother and that I wasn’t doing a good enough job raising our daughter. The sad part is, he still does this. It’s nowhere near as bad as it was, since we don’t live together, but it still happens. Luckily, his words no longer have a hold over me and I can brush them off.
A2 was worse than A1. He didn’t just attack my relationship and my parenting skills, he would actually attack my professional skills. A2 had a habit of trying to blame every bad thing he ever said to me on his anxiety. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know anxiety sucks. I’ve had panic attacks before and they were debilitating. I’ve even said horrible things to my current boyfriend in the heat of the moment because of triggers and anxiety. However, there is a difference between blurting something out because you felt a moment of defenselessness and just being an abusive asshole. Every single time something like that has happened in my current relationship I apologized profusely and made myself aware of the situation. I’ve done everything I can to keep it from happening again.
A2 refused to take blame. It was a constant cycle of him yelling at me, belittling me, and then telling me it wasn’t his fault because of his anxiety and that I needed to forgive him and try harder next time. He would call me a bitch, tell me I was a horrible girlfriend, tell me I had no compassion, and even go as far as to tell me I was a shitty nurse. For the record, I’m not a nurse I’m a medical assistant. He constantly told me that he had no idea how I worked with patients every day and that if I treated my patients the way I treated him I should be ashamed. When I was going through school it wasn’t much different. If I refused to get out of bed at 3:30 am to make him a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because I had to go see a patient at 6am (I did home health while I was in school) before going to school at 8am, he’d tell me I’d never make it in healthcare, that I just didn’t have the compassion. Even though he was fully able to get off the couch and walk to the bedroom, which was further away than the kitchen, and yell at me, he wasn’t able to make himself a simple sandwich or pour a glass of milk. He blamed me for his anxiety attacks and blamed me for not being able to stop them when they happened. There were times when I did everything exactly as he asked during one of his anxiety attacks and it didn’t matter. He still called me a bitch and told me I lacked compassion. The irony here is that after a while, I actually did stop caring. I know it sounds horrible, but it got to the point where he could have had an actual heart attack and I would have just let him flop around on the floor because my sympathy was gone.
Because of all of the crap I dealt with, I still have issues thinking I’m good enough. I almost left my job and my boss convinced me to stay, yet I somehow managed to convince myself it was just out of convenience so he wouldn’t have to hire someone new. I convinced myself a few times that I don’t deserve the relationship I have with my boyfriend. I’m not a good enough girlfriend to deserve someone so understanding and respectful. I’ve been told too many times that I’m shitty and I lack compassion. Somewhere deep down, I want to believe it’s not true. I try and listen to my friends when they tell me I’m smart and funny. I try to listen when my family tells me I’m one of the most compassionate people they know. I try to listen when my boyfriend tells me the best girlfriend ever. It’s just that it’s not easy to hear when you’re used to being told that you’re shit.