Depression: On Feeling Like an Imposter

Feeling like an imposter is something that those with depression are familiar with. We feel like we stand out like a sore thumb; for all the wrong reasons. It’s as though we just don’t fit it with other people; their ideals, their expectations, their perspectives, their abilities. Everyone seems cleverer, stronger, more beautiful, more deserving, more organised, more rational, more talented, more…everything good.

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The very nature of depression is that it feeds on those thoughts. We pretend we’re ‘fine’ and try to hide the pain we’re suffering. It deceives people into thinking we’re feeling better than we are.

When good things happen to us, we feel as though it’s a joke, a mistake. That it must come with a caveat. As though we’ve been on the receiving end of a big dose of luck. It was nothing to do with any skills, hard work, ability, we may have. Nope. Just luck. The ‘good thing’ just doesn’t reconcile with how we feel about ourselves.

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We feel as though we’re lacking in some way, inadequate. That we just don’t match up. Other people are placed on a pedestal, and we’re waaaay down there, in the gutter somewhere. We feel undeserving of their love, attention, and kindness. The constant fear of being ‘found out’ that we’re not good enough. The nagging fear that when they find out the total truth about who we are, they’ll leave.
We crave acknowledgement yet, compliments feel insincere. They’re ‘just saying XYZ to be nice’. They can’t possibly mean it. Besides, we have 100,000,000,000,000,000 reasons we can name to counter the compliment anyway.

The trouble with feeling like an imposter is that it can be a vicious circle. We start adapting our behaviours to what we think other people expect of us. In turn, we’re not always being true to ourselves and that magnifies the imposter feelings. Because at that point, our actions are imposing on who we truly are.

Feeling like an imposter can sneak up on you. You might not be able to identify when they began. Combating those thoughts take time. It’s hard work being hyper-aware of every thought you’re having and then counter-attacking that thought with another.

Reframe mistakes

You will make mistakes. That’s a given. Making mistakes mean that you are trying, and that’s a good thing. Take responsibility for your mistakes, always, but don’t allow them to be a tool you use to beat yourself up with all darn day. They are lessons. They teach you what you might say, or do, differently next time. Mistakes allow us to grow and to learn. Without mistakes, we simply wouldn’t move forward.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas A. Edison, inventor of the light bulb

Build up the evidence against you being an imposter

Become aware of your self-criticism. Challenge it as you would if a friend expressed the same doubts to you.

Sometimes that’s hard to do, so build up the evidence against you. Screenshot compliments and saved them to a folder. Record ALL your achievements. Make a compliment jar. These all act as tools to give credence to how fantastic you are. You might not be able to see that right now, but others can.

Don’t underestimate the sheer effort it takes to be motivated and to achieve when you’ve got depression lapping at your ankles.

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Give yourself the benefit of the doubt

You’re not perfect. Nobody is. Not your friends, not the people you look up to, nobody.
You are doing your best. That’s not in doubt. In fact, you’re probably bending and twisting trying to do better than your best. Those nagging voices that tell you that you’re not doing enough, are lying. You are doing enough. You are enough. Yup. As you are. Right now.

“I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it” – Thomas Jefferson

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  • INVICTUS9100

    I was attacked and stabbed as a child, bullied at school, watched my mum die needlessly, watched my dad die as a result of what my mom did, lost three of my closest and dearest friends and then my dog. I have had depression all of my life and have had multiple breakdowns lasting many months, have not enjoyed good health as a result of arthritis and degenerative eye disease but I am me and I am strong and I take what this life dishes out and when life is done throwing its crap at me I look back and say to myself is that all you have got because you can’t break me…!

  • Ally Grant

    I feel like this every day. I really want to be free from it’s clutches. It’s preventing me from being the person I could be.

  • Mara Alba

    When in depression, for about a decade, I felt as if I didn’t fully exist, as if I was a shadow moving around with no proper form. I simply felt invalid, as if I had no right to occupy my space in the universe. It was more than just feeling that I could be undermined at any point. It was a constant state of underminedness. You do it to yourself all the time, and you allow others’ comments to do it too. It’s only after you see this mechanism, constant downward spirals of thought, that you can see this fully for what it is, and you can see how it can be sorted out (I did CBT). An insight I found emotionally challenging but freeing (during recovery) was being able to see that I had not wanted to move out of that state, because it was my MO, and I had forgotten and didn’t recognise any other way of living. I am fine now, totally fine. I can look back and see it. I hope this helps someone x

  • Mark Webb

    Nice article and I just felt like that at the office Christmas Party even after 10 years. It’s a strange thing- it’s being constantly uncomfortable about yourself.

  • John Messenger

    I retire in about 2 years and yet for most of my working life I’ve thought I would be found out to be some sort of fraud. I feel if I make it to retirement then I’ll have got away with it. I can go through all the logical arguments in my head, but do I really believe them? Not really.

    • jerry humphreys

      Made it to retirement a year ago and its great to be free of work stresses.I bet if you asked anyone at work they would say you are the most diligent, productive and caring of colleagues. Still can’t get away from feeling an imposter – very rarely achieve any sort of feeling of belonging and being in the right space. Still I have all day to work on it.

  • Hayley Sambrook

    Depression for me is like a actual person, someone constantly saying to me you are rubbish, you are worthless, your opinions, thoughts and feelings are worthless, you are worthless. I constantly worry on a daily basis about everything and anything. I always have to seek approval before doing anything, always seeking reassurance that what I am doing with my life is okay. Not only does it effect me but it effects my family, depression makes me feel half a person, I long to feel ‘normal’ again long to be me before the racing thoughts, sleepless nights and negative thoughts came into play. My anxiety is 1000%. I crave to feel peace inside, to wake up feeling refreashed and happy, ready to take on what the world wants to throw at me but depression is like quick sand the more you move and try to break free the deeper you sink.

    • Simon Timothy Plant

      I’m just like that!

      • Simon Timothy Plant

        I’m trapped inside my head and no matter what I do or how I try to ‘sort it’ nothing changes.I hate myself and think I am a total waste of space and believe in myself!people say I should believe in myself but how can I when all my ideas are wrong and everything I do is doomed to failure it always has so why should it be any different now!

    • Ditto. It’s like a clone/incarnation of the real-life people that put me down. An echo. It’s why I constantly feel like I’m worthless, like many people do.

  • Julie Dylan Edwards

    i feel all of the above and i also sometimes feel like i am not really fully present in my body ! like i am viewing my life through the eyes of someone else, like i am literally hiding behind their eyes watching from inside. i also sometimes feel like although physically i am present that my consciousness is floating above me out of my body looking down upon me watching me .