Imposter Syndrome As a Parent
Am I doing the best thing for my kids?
Everyone else has so much more experience.
Was I even meant to become a parent?
I feel like everyone else knows something that I don’t.
Am I smart enough to be a parent?
I can’t ask for help, I’m supposed to know what to do with my kids.
Are they judging me? Their family is so much more put together than mine.
How many of these statements have passed through your mind as a parent? Whether it be a daily occurrence that these thoughts pop up, or once in a couple months, they can still leave a tear in your confidence as a parent. You may feel like you were mistakenly invited to become a parent, or that you’re only lucky in disguising your imperfections. Others in the parenting world have no idea that you don't belong. Either that, or they must already know that you don't belong, however, they are too polite to say anything. Your kids probably sense something is wrong too, they must wish they had a different parent. You fear maybe one day they will request to go live with their friend's parent, or down the road turn to be a bad person due to being raised by a 'bad parent'. Sound a little too close to home? Let’s talk a bit about Imposter Syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Although it's not in DSM5 as a diagnosis, Imposter Syndrome, also known as Imposter Phenomenon, is very real. About 70% of individuals experience Imposter Syndrome at least once in their lifetime. The American Psychological Association describes Imposter Syndrome as individuals who attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than personal achievement. Anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem combined with high self-doubt are all a part of Imposter Syndrome. Those with Imposter Syndrome may have perfectionistic tendencies to want things completely right, or else others will see their shortcomings and no longer want to associate with them. Above all, most people don’t talk about feeling like an imposter, because of their fear of being rejected by others.
Imposter Syndrome As A Parent
Imposter Syndrome doesn't present itself as a one size fits all with parents. Some may be more aware of their actions and feelings being related to feeling like an imposter. Others may think that it is normal to doubt one's self and tend to ignore signs that they are actually doing a good job. There are a few subtypes of individuals who experience Imposter Syndrome, here's how they may fit into being a parent.
You may believe every other parent knows a secret or special way to interact with their kids that you’re missing out on. In public, you feel like a disappointment to the parenting community if your child gets angry or doesn’t act as polite as the other kids you see. You look at other families and think, those parents must just be smarter and are more fit to be parents than me, I’ll never have a family act like that. As an expert, you want to know every single detail about a topic, or else you feel unqualified to do the task. If your child acts out once, you may think it's because you didn't do enough research to help your child.
You may feel ashamed to want to take a break for yourself. You may be wondering, well I don’t see other parents talking about wanting a night off just for themselves, I must be a bad parent wanting that. You feel like asking for help would be admitting defeat, sending up a red flag that would make others think, wow they really don’t know what they’re doing, I’m not letting my kids over at their house. As a soloist, you may feel like a failure if you ask for help. You always have to complete tasks on your own and feel like a burden when you do muster up the courage to ask for assistance.
You may doubt all your accomplishments if one thing is going wrong. You may be one of the event coordinators of your child’s school PTA, and everyone loves your work. But, your child is failing math. You fear his teachers must think that you don’t try to help him at all at home; they must think you care more about volunteering than helping your kids. Your organization and planning accomplishments take a back burner spot in your mind, especially because you’re struggling with this one problem. As a superman or superwomen, you may push yourself to work harder than others around you, to prove that you're a good person. You may be working full time and be a parent, however you have to prove to other parents that you still care about your kids by constantly volunteering, planning trips, or giving donations to your child's extracurriculars in your free time. Being a superhero can leave you exhausted.
You may find yourself procrastinating on activities you used to enjoy alone. You think, there's no way I can go to yoga this weekend. I'm a parent. I'm supposed to go to activities with my family on the weekends, going to yoga would just be selfish right now. You may find yourself over analyzing your schedule, and cutting out things that don’t directly related to your kids or family. As a perfectionist, you may set very high expectations for the perfect family life, which comes at a cost for spending time for yourself. Happy family, happy self may be your motto, however when's the last time you were happy with yourself?
All of these scenarios are parts of Imposter Syndrome as a parent. Either feeling helpless that we can’t do it all as parents, or feeling useless compared to other parents.
How does it feel to not include yourself in the group of successful parents? Ashamed, tired, or disappointed may pop into your head along with other self-doubt feelings. Imposter Syndrome wants you to believe those feelings are truly related to your accomplishments, however you are so much more than that. Read ahead for some tips on how to get rid of your own Imposter Syndrome.
Strategies to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Turn Around Briefly. Sometimes our memories are our best reminder of what we can accomplish. Look at small steps that you have taken to get where you are. Think of things that were successful. There have been actions in the past that you have taken that has kept your children thriving and surviving. There have been times where you've made your family laugh, times that you've given up your personal time to be present with your child, and even times that were difficult in the moment but worth living through. Can’t think of anything right now? Remember the moment you chose to let a child into your life, the selfless moment you chose to raise a human. That is no small step and deserves to be remembered as well.
Repeat: Parenting is a learned experience not an innate skill. No one is born with better parenting talents than another. No matter what gender, sexuality, religion, or age you are, nothing has granted you more or less parenting personality powers than your next door neighbor. Parenting is a journey, one with many trials and errors. Everyone is unsure of which choice is best for their family as certain points. No one is born with super parenting abilities; you are building your parenting toolbox as your travel on your journey.
Non-Traditional Parents are Still Parents. Sometimes being a single parent, an adoptive partner, or a step-parent, can lead to doubt when parenting. Media and literature tends to focus on a traditional two person relationship as parents. However, in the modern world, being a parent doesn't fit into one box. Today's parent applies to anyone for cares deeply to raise a child, no matter how they became a parent.
Do Something for Yourself. Burnout can lead to feeling like you don’t belong, and can also lead to anxiety and depression. Remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you are giving all your energy and time to making sure your family and children are okay, what’s left in the cup to make sure you're okay? Schedule at least one activity a week to help recharge your batteries. Whatever it may be, a nice long walk, a coffee date for one, watching your favorite show, this is a time for you to relax, no interruptions. Ask your partner, a family member, a neighbor, or a friend, to watch your children for a couple hours. A couple hours of me time is what you deserve when you’re spending days in child focused time.
Find A Cheerleader. You are not alone in feeling like a not good enough parent. However, admitting that we feel that way is painful to talk about. The more we try to go through Imposter Syndrome alone, the more isolated we may feel. It’s important to find a person, or even a group, who we feel comfortable disclosing our worries and fears with, someone who builds us up and gives encouragement when we feel down. Someone who listens and doesn’t judge. A trusted friend, a supportive spouse, or even your own parents, can all work for someone who sees you as an awesome individual who is doing their best. Can’t think of anyone? In the modern world, many online communities exist to help parents realize their fears and struggles are normal for a lot of people. If someone responds to your want of support in a negative way, they are not a good pick for a cheerleader.
Attaching with the kids. It could be your feelings of being an imposter come from being uncertain what your kids need most. Maybe you spend a lot of money on gifts and experiences that don't seem to be getting any excitement out of your child. Maybe you spent time typing up notes of encouragement to your children, however they end up being forgotten in their lunch boxes. Finding out your child's love language, could be helpful in learning what they gravitate towards in terms of connection. It allows you as a parent to cut out things that your child isn't appreciating as much, and building up actions that speak attachment for them. For teenagers, being a supportive person when times get tough for your teen, can be key for bonding. Rather than running around trying to solve all of your teenager's problems for them, take a small step back and encourage them to brainstorm solutions themselves. This gives you a break but also shows your teen that you respect their ability to solve their own issues. Giving space and support can bring a balance to you and your teen's relationship.
Different types of parents. The label parent is not a one size fits all label, therefore its unfair to compare yourself with another parent who is a totally different person than you. Not a huge fan of screaming your child’s name during a game? Does thinking of baking for the field trip fundraiser give you more anxiety than amusement? That's totally normal. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re a a human who is perfect at everything. Becoming a parent doesn’t change your skillset or personality. Your strengths may not be as external, or internal, as other parents, but you still have strengths in other areas that maybe other parents don’t have. Comparing yourself to other parents only causes a rift in your self-confidence. List your strengths as a parent and embrace them.
Going to Therapy. As a parent it is important to make sure your getting the support you need, both physically and mentally. Imposter Syndrome is tricky to deal with alone, especially since so much of it depends on how we think others view us. Therapy can be a powerful support to help parents figure out where Imposter Syndrome tendencies may stem from and how to cope with them further. Click to see how individual therapy may be beneficial in getting you back to feeling confident about yourself again.
You as a parent have more control and competence than Imposter Syndrome wants you to believe. The less power you give Imposter Syndrome, the more your good parenting qualities will shine.
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Weir, K. (2013). Feel like a Fraud? Retrieved September 11, 2020, from https://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2013/11/fraud