"Imposter Syndrome's" cousin

As this month's Thrivival 101 podcast episode highlights, as well as conversations we’ve had with other female mental health clinicians, I’m convinced there is a new syndrome in town that’s affecting many of us. Okay, maybe not new, just perhaps newly exposed, at least to me. It’s related to but different than the “imposter syndrome”, which is now in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, defined as: “a psychological condition that is characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success.”

In a related vein, this new syndrome is characterized by a belief that one is actually ill-suited for the profession, and it seems to arise when a clinician’s enjoyment of their work diminishes. Associated symptoms of this syndrome may include work dread (you know that heavy feeling you get on Sundays or on the last couple of days of vacation), exhaustion, persistent unfavorable self-comparisons to other female clinicians (such as, why am I so exhausted after seeing 6 clients a day when so and so isn’t?), and escape plan rumination (which typically manifests itself in the form of researching or fantasizing about alternate careers—mine was long distance truck driving).

If this sounds familiar, you too may be experiencing the “ill-suited syndrome.” Okay, perhaps not the cleverest name, but it’s a start.

The good news is you’re not alone and our discussions with other female clinicians suggest the common components that contribute to recovery from this condition are nicely aligned with our four pillars of self-care:

  • Connection with your values, supportive others, information and insights about activities that energize and drain you, or health related factors that may be contributing to your diminished enjoyment of work (for me personally, menopause and its lingering effects was an important contributing factor), etc.
  • Compassion towards yourself and your experiences which includes recognizing you are not alone and offering yourself support and encouragement
  • Courage to make changes that help you find/create a work life that is aligned with your unique needs and values
  • Creativity to think outside the box about what ethical work can look like, and the diverse ways we can apply our skills and training.

Looking for a first step to overcoming the “ill-suited syndrome”? A great first step is connecting with information and insights about the work-related activities that energize and drain you and/or that provide you with a sense of satisfaction or frustration/boredom. One of the best ways to do that is to simply notice with curiosity (yep, another “C”!) what thoughts and feelings arise before, during, and after your involvement in various work-related activities.

And stay tuned for information about the next start date for our Thrivival Skills program, where we take a deeper dive into the four pillars of self-care and participants have an opportunity to work through materials with a cohort of supportive, like-minded female clinicians.