Part I of this post explained this common disorder, which strikes physicians in their primes, leads to chronic low self-esteem, and contributes to the epidemic of physician burnout. What else do we know about it?
Many physicians have some form of the Impostor Syndrome (IS) but almost all suffer in silence and isolation. This isolation actually feeds into the syndrome, making physicians focus more on the belief that others are more competent than they are. And the vicious cycle repeats or even intensifies.
Furthermore, IS erodes confidence and sense of accomplishment. There are so many pressures on physicians, so many things that weigh you down. Given this, in order to survive you need to limit or eliminate anything that can contribute to the weight of these pressures. Walking around waiting to be “found out” is definitely in this category.
Here are a few ways to manage IS:
- Realize that many of your peers also suffer from IS. You can derive comfort from the knowledge that IS comes with the territory of being a physician. It is an occupational hazard, unrelated to your actual skill or expertise.
- Try not to expect yourself to be perfect! No physician is, so stop berating yourself for being human. We would have been much better served if we had been taught this in medical school.
- Remind yourself that you’re selling yourself short by comparing yourself to others. You bring unique strengths to your work.
- When symptoms hit, consciously shift your focus to at least one specific way you excel professionally.
- Regularly acknowledge that there is so much new information out there, you cannot possibly keep up with it all.
Like many treatments, this prescription will not take effect immediately. It must be practiced consistently. Old thought patterns are difficult to change. Take care of yourself in this way and you will promote your well-being over your entire career.
This week, if you experience symptoms of IS, try the methods above. Do they relieve your suffering?