Do you struggle with impostor syndrome? Where does impostor syndrome come from? How can simple language shifts challenge and overcome limiting beliefs?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Dr. Caroline Buzanko about how you can stop feeling like an impostor and how you can overcome the limiting beliefs.
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Meet Dr. Caroline Buzanko
Dr. Caroline Buzanko is a Psychologist. Mother. Director of Koru Family Psychology. International Speaker. ADHD Superhero. And Changer of Lives. She works with kids, teens, and their families to help them build better lives by maximizing confidence, forging their resilience, and fostering strong connections. With over twenty years working with families, her focus is on developing long-term success and well-being by creating meaningful change. She also works with professionals and educators looking for training and approaches to expand their own clinical effectiveness.
In This Podcast
- Where does impostor syndrome come from?
- Moving past impostor syndrome
- Address the thoughts and the why
- Caroline Buzanko’s advice to private practitioners
Where does impostor syndrome come from?
[Our brain] is looking out for us to be safe, and safe means in our bed hiding under our covers. It doesn’t want us to be sticking our necks out there, taking risks, and being vulnerable. (Dr. Caroline Buzanko)
Impostor syndrome comes from all over; from the way that you speak to yourself, to how your brain is set up to keep you safe, and how society values achievement.
Social media has also worsened ideas of impostor syndrome because it provides a platform where comparison is rife.
There’s this need to be effortlessly perfect in every area of life and you don’t really hear struggles of other people’s successes … we’re not talking about the weaknesses and these feelings, so we feel like we’re the only ones [struggling]. (Dr. Caroline Buzanko)
Moving past impostor syndrome
Some tools and methods to overcome feelings invoked by impostor syndrome include:
- Self-reflection: where are you sabotaging yourself? What is maintaining this cycle? Ask yourself what is propelling the ideas of unworthiness in your mind, what actions or inactions are allowing these false beliefs to be maintained?
- Be honest: sit with yourself and be honest about where you may be avoiding things.
- Look at your thought traps, such as the “all or nothing” mentality, “anything other than perfection is a failure” ideas, and “assuming that people are judging you” are all thought traps.
- Do you take on too much? Some people validate their false beliefs by doing too much and ending up failing, which makes them berate themselves though they set themselves up for it.
Address the thoughts and the why
If doubt and a false or limiting belief crop up in your mind, do you allow it to take reign, or do you speak back to it?
Address the thoughts that you want to change, because it is in changing the way we think about and speak to ourselves that we can shift how we perceive ourselves. The limiting beliefs only start as thoughts, and you can stop them there, and consciously create better ones.
This is especially important to do when you are pursuing your goals and desires.
Write it out. Write out that big why and place it everywhere … that why is going to keep you going. (Dr. Caroline Buzanko)
When times of challenge come, address unhelpful thoughts, and welcome instead the challenges as growth and opportunities for change.
Caroline Buzanko’s advice to private practitioners
Everyone has insecurities, but it is what you do about them that defines you: are you going to get sucked in, or are you going to move forward?
Books mentioned in this episode:
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
- Visit Dr. Buzanko’s website and the Koru Family Psychology website
- Connect on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
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Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, 636.
I am Joe Sanok your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I am so excited that you are here. The book launch for Thursday is the New Friday has been going amazing. We are doing so many awesome sales and had over 200 media appearances in August, September and October. With CNBC’s Making It as well as Harvard Business Review, Inc., Money, Forbes, and a bunch of just amazing podcasts. So if you have not yet picked up your copy of Thursday is the New Friday, make sure you grab that because I’m sure you want to work fewer hours. I really take you through just all of those steps in just reducing the number of hours that you’re working and then also just having way more fun. When you have more fun, when you have more downtime, it actually helps you do better and more creative work.
But I got to tell you, throughout this process of writing a book, of having Harper Collins sign me, of working with a agent and then a writing coach, I mean, my writing coach, she was a former Harper Collins editor. She had produced Broadway Musicals. She was just like a lady out of an Elizabeth Gilbert novel or something. She had lived probably five lifetimes in the one lifetime she had. Talk about feeling like an imposter. There were times when I’m like hanging out with John Lee Dumas at Podcast Movement or other people that I had spent so much time looking up to and was finally at this level of author, as a Harper Collins author and I felt a little insecure.
It happens to the best of us. So I’m really excited about our guest today. Dr. Caroline Buzanko is a psychologist, mother and international speaker. Caroline is an ADHD superhero and changer of lives. She works with kids, teens, and their families to help them build better lives by maximizing confidence, forging their resilience and fostering strong connections. And with over 20 years working with fan families, her focus is on developing long-term success and wellbeing by creating meaningful change. She also works with professionals and educators looking for training and approaches to expand their own clinical effectiveness. So Caroline, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
DR. CAROLINE BUZANKO:
Thank you for having me. It’s great to be here.
Well, I am so excited to talk about feeling like and imposter and all of these kind of feelings around that. Tell us a little bit about how you got into the work of wanting to kind of help people with feeling like imposters
It was probably during my own PhD journey where I first started teaching about this and talking about it because I did do grad school and started in where I am. You only need to have a master’s to register as a psychologist. So I had my own private practice for a few years, decided to go back and do my PhD and I personally went through that imposter syndrome phenomenon when I was trying to do my research. That was just a topic that I really started researching more about and talking more and coaching more around because it really is not just for us as therapists or doctoral graduates really in all parts of life.
It’s really, you know anytime we’re taking on anything new or anything like that, but our brains just not set up for us to be successful most of the time, which I’ll talk a little bit about today, but with this imposter phenomenon, I mean, we never really get to experience that internal sense of success. I was just finding over and over people weren’t feeling very successful. They’re really beating themselves up all the time. And it didn’t matter, it didn’t matter what their education was or their experience or any other objective evidence of success. They just weren’t feeling that achievement within. So that’s kind of really what got me all on this topic where you just see these really successful people who believe they have no ability at all. They’re completely incompetent.
It’s really interesting, oftentimes when people say that to me, I just throw some stats at them that like 8% of the US has a master’s degree or higher. So if you’re in a room of a hundred average Americans, odds are, you’re the only one that has a master’s degree in counseling or clinical work. And sometimes that gives people relief. Sometimes they’re scared like, oh man, I’m the only one here But as I was researching my chapter in Thursday is the New Friday about the internal inclination moving on it I kind of discovered that there’s sort of this spectrum of on one side. There’s speed and on the other side is accuracy. And oftentimes people get paralyzed by perfection and focus too much on accuracy instead of just speed of getting things done.
And it seems like the higher level education just teaches us accuracy, accuracy, accuracy is it’s like, if you do one wrong citation in a paper your instructor just comes down on you. And that’s just like not how the real world is, where if you do something wrong, you can always change it. Where would you say that some of this kind of internal feeling of perfectionism, of feeling like an impostor, where does that come from?
Oh man, there’s so many different places where it could come from. I can’t go through all of them, but I mean, one thing I was talking about was how our brain isn’t set up for us to be, I mean, our brain’s really set up for us to be anxious and depressed. It’s looking out for us to be safe and so safe means in our bed hiding under our covers. So it doesn’t want us to be sticking our necks out there and taking risks and being vulnerable. So part of it is that, but you’re right, I mean the society, I mean, we’ve got parental control. There is a focus on smarts. I mean, anytime you talk to someone you’ve got a PhD, oh, you must be pretty smart to go to grad school. Well, no, it’s the 17 years of work that I had to put in to get that doctorate.
So there’s lots of different pieces. I mean, social media is a huge part of it as well. We’ve created this world of constant comparison and there’s just so much competition out there. It isn’t enough just to be good at something, especially as we’re growing up. High expectations is expected in all areas of life. So in high school, you can’t just be the valedictorian anymore. You can’t just volunteer. Being well rounded isn’t enough to get into some of the top universities. So there’s is need to be effortlessly perfect in every area of life. And we don’t really hear struggles of other people’s successes, unless it’s a Hollywood movie that we’re hearing of those. But just our everyday people in our lives, everyday stories of our bosses or peers.
And we’re not talking about the weaknesses and these feelings. So we feel then like, we’re the only ones. And the social media perpetuates that because there are these expectations to be happy and people waste so much time posting this perfect little life and then it’s worsening our self-esteem because we might believe that no one’s going to really like the real us because we seem perfect and we’re putting on this facade but deep down, we really know we’re not. Then we’re perpetuating this belief that everyone else is happier or more successful and they all seem perfect, but we only know our own experiences. So we think we’re the only ones who aren’t actually perfect.
So we place so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect then if anything goes wrong, we start beating ourselves up. “Well, who am I to be a psychologist when I’m depressed or divorced or struggling with my kids?” We fall into this, what’s wrong with me sort of monologue. So there’s just so many different factors going into this, but knowing how our brain is in just society and social media, you know this imposter phenomenon is really ubiquitous because most people, at some point in their life experience it. Then you’re talking about that perfectionism, which can really be paralyzing.
We fall into this pattern where we believe we’ve deceived others and then there’s this discrepancy between how we think other people see as this ideal self and our perceived self. So then that’s paralyzing in terms of, oh my gosh, I got to put out perfect work out there. Then it becomes crippling because it’s very vulnerable for us to be the best versions of ourselves. It’s way easier just to half ass it and do nothing because then no one can judge us because now we’ve got a really good excuse for why we failed. “Well, I didn’t put in enough time. I didn’t have enough time. If I really gave it my all, it would be so much better.” But if we give it our all and we fail, what does that say about us? That can be really harmful. So there’s that pressure to live up to that successful image, but there’s this fear of being exposed and it could be crippling. It takes us out of the game at the end of the day.
When you’re working with people on being less kind of paralyzed or not feeling like an imposter, take us through some of those steps or mindsets that help people move away from that.
Self-reflection is really important. I mean, we all have negative thoughts, but it’s when it takes over. So reflecting on our experiences, what implications does this imposter phenomenon have for practice? If we’re questioning our competency as we’re working with a client, for example, that’s taking us out of the moment of being with the client or staff is from growing our practice. So that self-reflection is important. Where are we sabotaging ourselves? So what’s more important, not so much is where this all comes from, what’s more important to think about is what’s maintaining this vicious cycle, those maintaining variables?
So we got to first get honest about where we, for example, might be avoiding things. Looking at those thought traps that we all know about, the all are nothing, got to be perfect, otherwise I’m a failure, the mind reading, assuming people are judging us, looking at all of those kinds of things. And excuses too, “I can only do good work under time pressure.” We see a lot of these misguided attribution, or I could have done better if I gave myself more time. So it’s looking at those thought patterns that we should fall into, but also the things that we do to prove those beliefs.
So maybe you’re someone who takes on too much and then you’ve got too much you can just never get anything done. Or you’ve just got impossible standards or you’ve become really indecisive, feel like, see, I can’t even make a simple decision about anything. Maybe we’re not getting enough sleep. We’re sabotaging ourselves that way because we’re not getting enough sleep and then we’re not being very effective or we’re not asking for help. Or we just get in the stuck of, I need to learn more. I need to prepare more. Now’s just not the good time. I’m not ready yet.
Looking at all of those patterns is going to be important. And where we procrastinate, I mean, that’s where we really get paralyzed. So we might have excuses of, I just need a break. I just need to chill. Tonight I’m going to go watch Netflix. So those are the traps that we get stuck in that are maintaining the difficulties that we might be having, but we’re just perpetuating things. So that’s the first piece, is really looking at where are we getting stuck and then kind of going from there.
Now, one thing I do just want to quickly talk about is recognizing procrastination for for what it is. People are probably going to block me because no one really likes this word and it’s got heavy connotations, but we’re part of a cult. Us perfectionist are part of a cult. When you’re in a cult, you don’t recognize it. Our brain is like a cult leader where we get sucked into these ridiculous ideas that we hold heartedly believe, but it’s just an illusion. Just because we believe it doesn’t mean it’s true. So I often ask clients that I’m working with, I’ll ask them questions about just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s true. So Joe, for you, what did you learn? When you swallow gum, how long do you think it sits in your stomach if you swallow it?
I think I learned it sits there like 30 years.
I learned seven years. So seven years or forever, right?
Yes, probably seven. It was a long, I mean, as a kid, like seven years is 30 years and like 40-year-olds were the same as 90-year-olds.
Totally, yes. So seven years, this gum’s going to stay. No, like within a week it’s gone. I remember things like, well, camels, do you know what’s in camel’s humps?
Man, now I feel like I should have paid attention more. I think it was water, but that’s probably not true.
In grade five I remember distinctly going to the zoo and our teacher telling us water was in a camel’s hump. Guess what? It’s not. It’s fat. That’s in their humps. So just because we believe something doesn’t mean it’s true. So I like doing optical illusions and little things like that, just to lighten the mood, just to kind of get us out, but it’s language that paralyzes us. So finish what I say, once upon a …
There’s no place like …
Blondes have all the …
Blondes are lawns
I’m like, I don’t know what lawns, do lawns get mowed? Blondes have all the fun.
Yes. So why did you say those words?
I mean, because I’ve heard those clichés my whole life.
It becomes so automatic we don’t even have to think about it. But we have our own stories as well that we might not even realize that become so automatic. So it’s I’m a failure. I can’t do this. I’m no good at technology. I’m no good at social media, whatever it is. So we really have to get untangled from those ridiculous stories of not being good enough. The thoughts and the feelings are still going to be there. We can’t control those, especially when we’re getting overwhelmed. And our brain has this ironic processing where as soon as I say, don’t think of the white bear, whatever you do, don’t think of the white bear, that’s the first place our brain’s going to go. So it’s recognizing, that’s why the self-reflection is so important. Then we can roll our eyes and be like, really? Don’t you have any new material to this brain called leader? I’ve actually enjoyed calling it Lokey lately.
low-key, I love it. Liking reference.
Exactly. So he’s the God of mischief and our amygdala is kind of the mischief, raising problem that we’ve got going on here. So it’s not necessarily us. It’s just the way our brains are developed. So being able to roll our eyes, really, low-key, you’re going to tell me that’s story. Here we go again with the whole I’m big loser story. You’re still going to have those feelings, but it’s changing our response to it. It’s changing our relationship with that story. So we can use some of those strategies to detach from those stories and then we can learn new stories. So you might not, you’ll always have once upon a time, but you can learn a new story so that what becomes more automatic is once upon a blue moon.
So there’s lots of places and we got to get our neck out there. We got to take risks. We have to talk about it. It might be good to have a podcast just hearing about others’ fails and struggles. I’ve got a boatload of stories but we just don’t talk about our fail after fail, because we don’t want to hear about this. We want to hear about the success stories, but that can be really problem because we are perpetuating this idea that we’re the only ones who are struggling. But everybody is struggling out there. I know it seems counterintuitive because we want to hide our vulnerabilities but by hiding our vulnerabilities, we’re actually making us more vulnerable.
So sharing them makes us human. It makes us stronger. It connects us. So that’s a huge piece about this. It’s just talking about it and when we start talking about it, we see the most competent, the most worthy people, our idols. They are usually the ones with big insecurities. We’re all human. I actually love listening to Smartless. I don’t know if you’ve listened to that podcast, but it’s these amazingly famous people, but they’re so humble. They talk about their times where they were nervous for an audition, for example, or their fails as a human or as a parent. So being able to really relate on that level can be huge as well.
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Asking for help is always important. Getting out of the competition, it’s not about winning. We often compare ourselves, “Joe’s already dominating this space. So I can’t possibly.” But we’re not you. We’re not anybody else. We have our own unique things to bring. So the next piece, once we figure out what our low-key brain is doing, it’s figuring out our why. Why are we doing this in the first place? Is this something that’s even important to me, and once we know our why, that’s what we’re going to hold onto. Our brain doesn’t want to remember it. Our brain’s going to forget, and our brain’s going to want to overwhelm us. So it’s writing it out, writing out that big why and placing it everywhere, everywhere you work, your computer screen. When you wake up having it in your bathroom mirror, having it on the fridge, that why is what’s going to keep you going.
Once you know that why then it’s figuring out the what, what your goals are, what your expectations are, what is it that you need to do? Maybe there’s skills you still need to learn. What are the steps of whatever that goal is, those specific sort of behavioral actions and having that out? We want to play offense. We often play defense and we’re reactive as things come up. So identifying obstacles, and that’s why the self-reflection piece is so important as well, because you’re figuring out where you sabotage yourself, but also now looking at obstacles and how you’re going to overcome those. But at the end of the day to really change our brain is to get out there, get out of our comfort zones on purpose.
We know that fear hierarchies can actually slow our progress down in the world of anxiety. So I tell people to stop playing small. Go for the big guns, whatever that is, because then you’re going to teach your brain, see, I can do this. We just got to be willing to be our best self, even at the risk of falling flat on our face. And when you look at some of the top entrepreneurs and business people, they have a very similar mindset in terms of embracing that failure, what you were talking about earlier. They’re looking for those fails because they know it’s a learning opportunity. “Yes, that sucked. I totally failed out there. Awesome opportunity to learn. What can I do better next time?”
Well, I think that also, when you give yourself kind of the practice of failing and doing it over and over and over, and then you have these big wins it just makes it easier to realize that like, I’m not even going to give myself time to overthink things. I’m not going to give myself time to get all worked up and worried about things. It makes it a lot easier to just kind of push back that low-key brain. Because you’re just, you haven’t made time for you to worry. For me, just like having a day that’s packed full of podcasts or different things, when am I going to worry? I got to jump into another podcast.
Yes, exactly. Actually, I often talk about how time is our enemy. When I go, well, even to just the summer, I took the girls to these cliffs where we go swimming in the lake, we watch people jump off the cliffs. I know who’s going to jump right away or who’s not. The people who are going to jump don’t even go to the edge. They just run and jump. The people who I know are not going to jump, they go to the edge, they look over, they would take, walk back a step or two, they go back over, look at the ledge. They’re wasting time. Time is their enemy. Doing things right away is the greatest predictor of success. There’s research showing this. I mean, doing things right away is more important than grades or past performances or anything else. It’s doing it right away.
So you are right. It’s about doing it now and being consistent. And it’s not about profession. That’s what gets us paralyzed. Overthinking is paralyzing. So it’s finding that way to be really consistent and then adapting and getting that feedback. I think that that’s really important, getting stuff out there, whatever it is, beta test it, learn from it, tweak it, keep going. That’s how you’re going to become an expert. That’s how you’re going to rewire your brain, because you’re teaching yourself that, “Hey, I did that and even though I failed, maybe I fell flat on my face, I’m still alive. I’m still breathing and now I know exactly what I need to do to make it better.” Or you learn, hey, I am pretty awesome. But until you actually take that leap, you’re never going to learn that you’re anything other than what your low-key brain is telling you.
So that’s a huge piece of it, just getting it done. So you got to optimize your effectiveness. Again, that’s a whole other conversation just about how to work smarter. It’s not harder. It’s about using our brain resources really effectively. So having those effective habits and routines, being an effective scheduler and task breaker, downer and prioritizer and time manager. Again, looking at language shifts we can beat ourselves up, “I did something wrong and I’ve got no willpower.” But I like talking about little henchman. We’re talking about low-key and maybe all the other low-keys too, that they’re robbing time from us. So where are your time robbers? Maybe it’s social media, maybe it’s your email. So finding those and putting those little henchmen in their place.
I did want to share just a productivity schedule. I think that that’s really helpful. I can actually pass along a link to an example of one if you want, but it’s really focusing on your top three priorities. That’s kind of where research shows is the sweet spot. It’s finding three things that you want to do every day and then focusing on that, not doing anything else until you get those three things done. Then there’s a couple of things to really optimize that. So in the morning of every day, again, there’s a little bit of a language shift, we can get really weighed down on the must dos, what I have to get done. What do you get to do? What do you get to enjoy? That can be really helpful. I get to do this work today. I’m so lucky. So it’s just a little bit of a shift in the morning when our brain is fresh.
Then at the end of the day, what would you have done differently for the day if you could redo it? It only takes a couple of minutes to regroup what did I learn for today that I can take into tomorrow and be a little bit more successful tomorrow? I think that that’s really helpful as well. Then documenting our progress. Our brain is set up for us to forget our successes. It doesn’t want us to remember that we can be successful and take risks. So we need to keep track of all of those. Your point earlier about the masters, I remember when I got my masters and I was like, ah, well, everybody else has got their masters. So I better get my PhD. Then I got my PhD and I’m like, oh no, not a big deal. Everybody else has got their PhD.
We take things for granted. So just writing down our wins and even going back as far as you can and cataloging all of your wins can be really important. Just to remind our brain that hey, we do have a lot of successes and we have overcome all of these obstacles. Then of course doing fun stuff. I mean, life is not all work. Thursday is the New Friday mean slowing things down. All of the things that you talk about is really important. Throwing some creativity in there, I think that’s about all happiness. So just being able to make sure that we take that time for reset I think is really important as well.
Oh man. Well, the last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world we’re listening right now, what would you to know?
At the end of the day, we all have insecurities. It’s really what you do about those insecurities that defines you, whether we’re going to get sucked in or we’re going to move forward. It’s also really important to remember that your value, it’s not doing mediocre work. It’s not doing last-minute work. Your value is doing your very best work and being open to failure. Even if you fall flat on your face so that you can grow from there, that’s where you’re going to show your greatest value.
Ah, so awesome. Well, Caroline, if people want to follow your work, they want to connect with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Probably just my website, drcarolinebuzanko.ca. All my contact information and everything is there.
Awesome. We’ll have links to that in the show notes. Thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
Thanks for having me.
We all have these feelings of being an imposter and sometimes that’s a good thing. A lot of times that’s a good thing. It means you’re pushing yourself. It means that you’re stepping into new territory, that you’re not just laying in bed and being safe, and you’re not just staying at your private practice and being safe, that you’re actually doing big things in the world. So go push back against that imposter syndrome, go take some of these techniques and turn them into something that will help you get to the next level. Our sponsor for today is actually one of our e-courses that we’re offering totally free for you. It is called Pillars of Practice. So over at pillarspractice.com, you can sign up for this. If you are brand new to private practice, there is a curriculum for you.
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Thank you so much for hanging out with me and letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an amazing week. I’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.