The Syndrome We’re All Familiar With But Can’t Seem to Beat

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In the last blog, I broke down some key concerns and barriers I hear when speaking to new therapists and professionals looking to get started with immigration evaluation services.

These are the four that I repeatedly hear from newly qualified and highly experienced practitioners alike; when I look at those barriers, I can usually trace them back to one big overarching theme.

I tried to include this theme in my last blog, but it was simply too big – it needed an entire article if we’re really going to get to grips with it.

The big theme I’m talking about? Imposter Syndrome.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

As we progress through our careers, growing in experience and gaining momentum – perhaps adding new services and exploring new areas of work – many of us start to trip. Despite the work we’ve put in, we can start to feel underqualified.

Instead of believing that we’re reaping the benefits of all our hard work, we put successes and achievements down to luck or a mistake. When attempting to start something new, this mindset creeps in, making us feel that we’re not ‘right’ to offer a new service and shouldn’t try.

This is imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome can affect anyone, no matter how young, old, experienced, or accomplished. It’s better to view it as a tendency rather than a personality type. Many of us might go through most of our careers without ever experiencing it, to suddenly find it rears its head as we go for a promotion or a new job role. It can be heavily context and situational-dependent.

I’m raising the issue as it’s about more than just having a few doubts.

Imposter syndrome has been shown to add to feelings of low mental health. As you can imagine, it can be a significant barrier to career advancement, leading to low job satisfaction and motivation at work and feeling trapped and unable to progress.

It’s interesting to know that imposter syndrome is especially prominent among people with underrepresented identities.

According to Kevin Cokley, Ph.D., a professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and imposter syndrome researcher, BIPOC people who work or study in predominantly white environments wrestle with impostor feelings at higher rates.

What It Means For You

I’ve spoken to many aspiring professionals who’ve started down the pathway of adding immigration evaluation services to their practice, only to change their minds down the line.

When I reach out to see how they’re going and if I can help, I hear many of the barriers I’ve mentioned previously, but the deeper we go, the more I discover that imposter syndrome is usually to thank.

I know that for many entering the world of immigration evaluations for the first time, it’s also the first time they may have considered the plight of immigrants in our country. It’s easy to look around and see others who are more experienced, more accomplished, and more in tune with what immigrants might need.

I usually see imposter feelings planting their feet in these thoughts and growing from there.

The truth is, everyone is different and has something unique to bring to the table. Not every therapist is suitable for every client – we all have something to offer that others don’t and that clients need.

How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Overcoming these feelings can be challenging, and I think it’s important to note that what works for one person won’t always work for someone else, but there are two key things I’ve found in my work that have helped me and helped others I’ve been working with.

1. Negative vs. Positive Self Talk

Self-talk is the conscious and unconscious beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world more generally. Self-talk can be positive or negative – and paying attention to which you most often sway towards can help you address imposter syndrome. Instead of negative self-talk – thoughts like, “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not qualified/experienced enough” – try to catch these thoughts when they arise and switch to positive self-talk.

Positive self-talk sees us tapping into a bit of self-compassion and the growth journeys we’re on. It’s about forgiving ourselves for being new, opening our curiosity to explore something new, and giving ourselves over to the process of starting from the beginning. Positive self-talk see’s our internal narrative switching to ideas like “I’m excited to learn something new” or “If I make a mistake, I’ll learn from them and not be held back by them.”

2. A Growth Mindset

In many of our environments – especially school and the workplace – we’re not given much freedom to explore the possibilities of learning and growing with our mistakes. Our workplaces hold up successful individuals, and there’s too often a culture where those who get ahead have something ‘extra’ – almost unattainable – leaving those of us to feel like we can’t reach for specific goals or achievements because it’s not naturally within us.

Mindset theory is a set of ideas based on the belief that our ability to grow and learn is based on whether we think our abilities are fixed or not. If we believe our abilities are fixed, we won’t act to grow them; we’ll just accept that we can’t change. But if we believe that our abilities are open to change and we are the masters of how we progress in life based on our openness to try, fail and learn, then we’re more likely to reach our potential.

When it comes to beating imposter syndrome, both tactics can help us reevaluate how we think and talk about ourselves and our capabilities.

Remember: you don’t have to be an expert in everything, but you do have to be willing to learn, be curious about your knowledge gaps, and be ready to embrace the path ahead as you start building your experience and knowledge.

What Does Your Imposter Voice Tell You?

My biggest goal when I created The Immigration Evaluation institute was to develop a community of supportive individuals to help grow these services across our communities.

If there’s an imposter voice in you that’s banging those drums a little too loudly and stopping you from progressing where you want to be – we want to help.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me directly via email or reach out to the Facebook group. I guarantee there will be someone who has been through what you’re going through and is happy to help support you through it.

Cecilia Racine: Immigration Evaluation Therapist

I’m Cecilia Racine, and I teach therapists how to help immigrants through my online courses. As a bilingual immigrant myself, I know the unique perspective that these clients are experiencing. I’ve conducted over 500 evaluations and work with dozens of lawyers in various states. Immigrants are my passion, I believe they add to the fabric of our country.

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