Owning your health is not for the weak. It takes a strong person to stand up for your health, your experiences and your future. Increasingly so, patients are learning that they need to be prepared to analyze their symptoms and experiences and be willing to advocate for their wellbeing. But advocating for yourself can be a difficult process.
Anyone who has struggled with chronic pain or symptoms that do not comply with the status quo knows how frustrating it can be to consult with doctors. Often, one may be made to feel like they are making their symptoms up or that it is all in their head. Navigating this pressure while also trying to manage their pain can be a full-time job!
Enter: Bio-hacking. As we have discussed on this blog before, bio-hacking is for any person who wants to make their health better. This is pretty much everyone, wouldn’t you agree? I came to bio-hacking out of necessity. I needed to find answers to my own health problems, and I was so relieved when I found a community of like-minded people. Not all bio-hackers needed to find answers (like me). They simply wanted to optimize on their good health. No matter where you find yourself in your health journey, you are welcome to be a bio-hacker, or health advocate, or whatever title you want to call yourself.
When I found bio-hacking, I noticed that those who called themselves bio-hackers were predominately men. Not only were they men, but they seemed so advanced, so ahead of me when it came to their knowledge. It was when I started to call myself a bio-hacker that I realized I struggled deeply with imposter syndrome. This realization made me wonder: maybe imposter syndrome is something that holds people back from advocating for their health in general? Maybe this has been something that has held me back from more than just calling myself a bio-hacker, AND maybe it’s not just me...
What is Imposter Syndrome
Imposter syndrome is the internal belief that you are undeserving of your success or a belief that you somehow have not actually achieved what you have achieved. Does this sound familiar? Imposter syndrome can impact your entire belief system, which, in turn, can impact how you engage with daily life. These beliefs often show-up as chronic self-doubt.
In recent research, there were common patterns in whom imposter syndrome tended to plague. This included perfectionists, experts, natural geniuses, soloists and superhuman. The perfectionist is someone who sets high expectations for themselves and struggles when they miss their mark (even if by the smallest amount). The expert feels the need to know everything possible about a project before they even begin. Experts tend to hear speaking up if they are not 100% informed for fear of looking stupid. Natural geniuses’ are those who are naturally gifted in certain areas. When they have to work hard at something (as opposed to being naturally good at like they are used to), they tend to struggle with imposter syndrome as if it is proof that they were an imposter all along. Soloists have a belief that they need to perform tasks all on their own, and when they are unable to do something on their own, they feel like a failure. Superhumans tend to feel they have to be succeeding in all areas of life at all times and this unattainable goal often will lead to feelings of imposter syndrome.
Take this test if you need more help identifying if you struggle with imposter syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome and Depression/Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are unfortunately common amongst adults in America. Recent studies show that nearly 40 million U.S. citizens suffer from anxiety a year. Additionally, major depression disorder (MDD) alone impacts over 16.1 million Americans per year.
As imposter syndrome is becoming prevalent (or at least, more eagerly discussed), there are rising theories about the relationship between imposter syndrome’s role in the lives of those who suffer from depression and anxiety. Anxiety is seen as an underlying cause of imposter syndrome that is also associated with things like perfectionism. Additionally, the person struggling with imposter syndrome is never fully able to accept themselves. This leads to symptoms of depression and increased anxiety.
For anyone struggling with depression and anxiety, I recommend watching Johann Hari’s TedTalk. You can view it here.
Healing From Imposter Syndrome
Practice for your mind
Try a talk therapy app
Talk therapy can be extremely helpful for those who are experiencing depression, anxiety and/or imposter syndrome. While technology can stimulate feelings of anxiety, I do believe that talk therapy apps can be extremely resourceful for any person experiencing these symptoms. It is important to remember that there is a phenomenal tool to have, but it is not the only tool and should be one of many used to treat these symptoms.
Read this book
I am a huge advocate for finding helpful information and utilizing it to help improve your life! Knowledge helps us move forward! One of the best ways to do this is through reading. There are tons of great books available to help you identify some of your own struggles and find insightful ways to overcome them. One of my favorites is The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. This book is a doozy. Do yourself this favor and grab a copy today.
Listen to these podcasts
Need a book on the go? Hello, podcasts! Here are some of my favorite episodes about imposter syndrome:
This is a simple and tested practice. Even if it is for 5 minutes a day, journaling can decrease your stress as it becomes a safe space for your thoughts to be, outside of your head, free of judgment. Another benefit of journaling is that it documents your progress for you. This aids in decreasing symptoms of imposter syndrome and can also shed light on how you are making progress in taming your thoughts and talking to yourself. Try journaling every evening before going to sleep.
Practice for your body
Go low carb for at least 30 days
Even if inflammation is not the root cause of your symptoms, decreasing your carbohydrate intake can decrease the inflammation in your body and ease feelings of anxiety and depression. Again, even if this is not a 100% cure, it will give you a better fighting chance over a day stuffed with muffins and dinner rolls.
Engage your body in intentional movement for at least 20 minutes a day
Another way to decrease inflammation and get a leg-up on your mental health is to ensure that you are moving your body with intentional movement. This includes Tai Chi, yoga, pilates, walking, stretching, HIIT workouts...learn to master your mind by moving your body.
Do your research and create a team that supports you
When you are suffering from imposter syndrome, depression or anxiety, your team is everything. When it comes to finding doctors, do your research! Friendly reminder: doctors are kind of like a pharmaceutical store. They are trained to sell a few things that they may or may not genuinely believe will help you with your symptoms. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but do you know what it does mean? You are allowed to look for other answers that DO work for you! Do your research on what type of doctor will best help you on your health journey. A general rule of thumb is that a “good doctors” never demeans or minimizes your experience but is willing to assess you as an individual with a unique body and needs.
Try this recipe
This is a quick recipe for Greek Lemon Chicken Soup. Pour yourself a bowl and make a game plan. This is your life, you get to make the rules of it.
Practice for your soul
Part of imposter syndrome is a constant ability to compare ourselves to others. How far are they, how easy are their achievements coming to them, where do you line up? And if you are only using social media as a way to gauge this, then you will surely leave feeling a lack in yourself. Even if you are not trying to compare yourself, it’s part of human nature and constantly surrounding yourself with opportunities to do so will lead to comparison fatigue, and likely, imposter syndrome.
Immerse yourself in nature
Nature has the opposite effect of technology. Immersing yourself fully in nature for as little of an hour can help your body reset and recharge. The practice of tree bathing is like taking the human body back to its origin. I know it may sound a bit “woo-woo”, but honestly, we were not born in cities! And there is a reason for this. Read more about the Ancient Art of Tree Bathing here.
Did you know that volunteering is proven to have a beneficial impact on your mental and physical health? Volunteering your time, energy and resources can help you stay connected to society, boost your mental health and feel more empowered in your daily life. There are easy ways to volunteer...there is no need to make it a once a year occurrence or exaggerate the energy it will take to get connected. This website is a great place to start!
Own your health
Your health is a personal experience. Imposter syndrome (and/or mental illness) may try to rob you of your experience and knowledge of what it is your body is going through. To be blunt: don’t let it.
Another side effect of imposter syndrome on your health is that it might rob you of feeling like you GET to set healthy boundaries and habits for your life. While imposter syndrome can cause you to be meticulous and perfectionistic, it can also be paralyzing and a subconscious limiting set of beliefs that keep you from being the best version of yourself. These limiting beliefs might be something like “I am not ACTUALLY a healthy person”, “I am not ACTUALLY a bio-hacker”, “I don’t ACTUALLY get to feel good” or even “these symptoms aren’t ACTUALLY real”.
If you struggle with imposter syndrome, identify how it is holding you back from being your best advocate for your health. If you are not sure if you struggle with imposter syndrome, but you know for sure you struggle with making sacrifices for your health and you are constantly falling short of where you wish you could be, reflect on the definition of imposter syndrome given above and try to identify if this might be a set of beliefs that are robbing you of your best health.