Category Archives: Psychology

You have Imposter Syndrome? Hey me too!

It is not uncommon to feel like an imposter in your own body. It is called Imposter Syndrome, and I have it too. It is this deep-seeded fear of being found out. Like you aren’t really good at what you are doing. Like you don’t deserve the success you have. 

These feelings do not discriminate, many successful men and women feel like they are a fraud. 

Actress Kate Winslet told The Mirror, “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.” Actress Emma Watson told Rookie magazine, “It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, ‘Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.”

Actor Ryan Reynolds told Men’s Health that he feels like just a “freckled-face kid, faking it until I make it.” Even Tom Hanks said on the podcast Fresh Air that he worries when people are going to discover that he is “a fraud and take everything away from me?”

Why do we feel this way? Why is it so hard to believe that we are capable of such success? The reality is you have earned it but sometimes you struggle with your self-confidence. Evolutionary speaking, humans have an instinct to stay small to protect ourselves and our children. Being big can be uncomfortable, and vulnerable. If we stay small we feel like it is easier to hide. We aren’t in the spotlight, few people are watching. 

We focus on our goals, our values, but then, in the end, deny our own roles in our success. Why? Who are we comparing ourselves to? It is ok to not know how you became successful. To not know how you “pull it off.” Take a moment to really look at yourself and think about who you are stacking yourself up against and then stop. Stop denying that you are deserving of your success. 

If you really have no idea what you are doing—as many of us don’t— that is fine, keep doing it. That is where creativity comes from. 

Do you ever feel like an imposter? Why?

Source: https://www.instyle.com/celebrity/stars-imposter-syndrome#3163080

Guilt is Grandiose

Guilt is defined, from a psychological perspective, as “a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.” The key part of that definition for me is the fact that guilt stems from this deep-seeded belief, or desire, that we are much more powerful in a moment than we actually are. Often times it is the belief that we could’ve done something to prevent the situation, even though in reality we couldn’t. It is grandiose.

The assumption that you were actually in control

Grandiose is the thought process that you are the “big fish,” you are “better than others.” When you feel guilty for something it is you assuming that you could have done better, that you are a better person than your old self. It is the assumption that you were actually in control in the moment. When the reality is you made a decision in the moment with what you had at the time. You decided to make the choice that you did with the information you had on-hand at the time. 

We are humans, we are not going to make perfect decisions all the time. Guilt is the assumption that you could have made the perfect choice.

We are only human. We act on our desires, our emotions, and while not always the best choice or the socially-acceptable choice, our decisions are part of us. No one can perfectly predict, or see every side of every situation in a moment. To think that we are capable of ignoring our human desires or predicting the future is a grandiose thought. 

Why do you think we feel guilty?

Research sources for this post:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/shame/201305/the-difference-between-guilt-and-shame

What is Grandiosity?

Overcoming negativity by practicing gratitude

Have you ever notice how your brain seems to always pick up and dwell on the negative? It is all part of science. Our brains are hardwired to respond and focus on the negative. 

Studies done by psychologist Dr. John Cacioppo, as previously mentioned on my blog prove the brain reacts stronger to negative stimuli than positive. This is all part of the brains built-in mechanism to protect ourselves from danger. But, always focusing on the negative can be tough on our mental health. It can worsen depression and anxiety, and lead to general unhappiness. 

Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude—while a learned practice—can help us pivot from our brain’s hardwiring for negativity, and help us to see the positive things we often overlook. Gratitude takes us out of our own nearsightedness and helps us recognize there is something/someone other than ourselves. It helps us to remember to be fair and to see both the negatives and positives in life and in others. It creates a more well-rounded existence. 

A powerful way—and relatively easy routine to adapt—to practice gratitude is The Power of Three. It is to give gratitude, whether it be at the end of each day or in the moment, to someone, something, and yourself. Each day, give recognition to (at least) one person for doing something nice for you, one positive thing that happened to you, and, last but not least, to yourself for doing something nice for others or yourself. Don’t forget to be nice to yourself! 

I encourage my clients to start gratitude journals, where each night before bed they write down at least one positive thing that came of the day. It can be as simple as not getting any red lights on the way home from work, listening to your favorite song when you woke up, getting a hug from your child, sharing dinner with your spouse, opening the door for a stranger, or a funny joke with a friend. There is something positive that happens each day. Practicing gratitude keeps us from being bogged down by all the negativity our brains seek. Using a journal to record those positive things can help us to keep stock of all the positive in our lives. It only takes a few minutes and can have a huge impact on your day-to-day happiness level. 

What are you grateful for today? 

The importance of emotion in decision-making

I frequently hear from women that they deny their emotions, they want to hide emotion to not be seen as “sensitive” or “emotional.” They tell me it hinders them at work, and it causes them to have an image of being “weak.” That stereotype is wrong. The pre-conceived idea that we shouldn’t be letting our emotions play a role is fundamentally not true, and research proves it. 

“Without emotion, people are unable to make good decisions”

Neuroscience professor Antonio Damasio has found in his research that without emotion people are unable to make good decisions. He studied patients with brain lesions whose ability to feel emotion was impaired but their reason was otherwise unaffected and found those people could not make good decisions. He found that the “extended” self-conception of humans emerges from emotions and feelings. 

In his research, Damasio determined there is an “action program” in the body that starts with an emotion. When we feel fear, for example, our body takes the feeling and uses it to develop a proper mental reaction that will ultimately lead to an action. Our emotions are what help to guide us in decision-making. They help us determine the next step. Emotion is so critical to us as humans and the way we function that we wouldn’t have music, art, religion, science, technology, economics, politics, justice, or moral philosophy without the existence of strong feelings. 

So next time you think about denying your feelings, think again. You are feeling the way you are for a reason and the mere presence of that emotion is important. It is essential to your daily life and function. It is helping to guide you to make good decisions. Emotion is not a sign of weakness. If anything it is a sign of strength. Your body is doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing. You are human. 

Read more on Damasio’s research here: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/528151/the-importance-of-feelings/

This word makes you more passive

As I have gained more roles in my life—mother, wife, daughter, and business owner—I have had to take more charge of my time. I have become more direct and less passive in the way I communicate. I am setting stronger, healthier boundaries. But, it took some time and some changes in the language I was using to really be successful with those boundaries. 

I used to say “Because of xyz, I am unable to..” The use of the word “unable” made myself seem small. It came off as I am not the one making decisions for my own life. Instead, I now say “xyz happens, therefore I will not…” Such as “I spend time with family on Friday nights, so I will not be attending your event” or “I have my money in somewhere, I will not loan it out now.” 

Forget the word “unable”

Forget the word “unable.” Remove it from your vocabulary. You are not small. You are the decision-maker in your life. You make your own rules. Don’t let other people think they can have control over your plans, your money, your life. You are the master of your world. Take charge in the language you use, so you don’t come off as passive.

I hear from clients all the time that they feel stretched too thin, they are afraid to disappoint people by standing up for themselves. This is why we tend to use the more passive language, but that can have a counterproductive effect. By not being direct in our language it can be perceived that the boundary we are setting is not really important. That it can easily be changed. Using direct language makes it more concrete. It is setting a rule and showing people you won’t budge, and you know what everything will be fine. You will feel more in control and more relaxed and people will grow to respect those boundaries you have set. 

Are you a different leader at home than work?

Learning to be a good leader is one of those things that can be beneficial at home and at work. A good leader knows how to be objective and to work with the people at hand in the current situation. But sometimes we are different people and different leaders, at home than we are at the office.

There are different expectations at home than at work— and different co-managers, if you will. And, let’s admit it after a long hard day at the office it can be hard to continue that persona at home. While at the office you might be the one always stepping in to take the lead on projects—or vice versa, you might not need to do as much at the office than you do at home. You might be the one managing a team of employees and providing guidance on the steps they should be taking to be successful. But, as soon as you exit that building and get to your home with your family you might take more of a back seat. You might let your spouse take the lead more, or give your children more freedom to figure things out on their own. 

Each part makes up our whole

At home, you might be introverted. You might keep to yourself. All of this is ok. Each of these parts of ourselves make up our whole. We just have to be careful to not completely let go when we are home or to do the opposite and take on a dictatorship type of role. Effective leadership is different in each family and in each situation, but they all have a few simple traits in common:

1.) The ability to listen and acknowledge what is going on around you— you need to be able to determine if you should step in to take control of a situation, of if you should stand back and let the other people involved figure it out. 

2.) Use of the democratic process — leaders who are dictators are not respected and they are only listened to because of fear. By taking the thoughts and ideas and opinions of the other people around you into consideration when making decisions, you will be making the most-informed and best decision for everyone involved.

3.) Flexibility— no one is right all the time, and having the ability to recognize this and be flexible to change in situations can help things to run more smoothly. Not everything goes as planned at home or at work, so try not to be heart-broken and instead embrace change. 

4.) A level-head — being able to be strict and stern when needed, but also have the ability to find humor in a situation is a great quality. It also helps to have the ability to calm down in situations of high stress. 

Whatever your leadership persona at home or in the office, take a moment each week or month to really look around and evaluate. How are people acting? Are they happy? How productive are things? What can you do to make positive changes? 

Men need couples counseling too

Susan (a fictional client) tells me she is not feeling in love with her husband anymore. She tells me she feels like he does not want to be around her, they don’t spend time together, he doesn’t show her affection anymore, she is worried the spark is gone. She wants to work though things in counseling, and she feels she is reaching a “tipping point.” She asks her husband to attend counseling with her, and he refuses. He won’t give it a second thought. I hear it all the time as a counselor. 

Why do guys do this?

Men may believe the therapist and spouse are going to gang up on them, especially in the case where a therapist is a woman. While an understandable concern, this is the opposite of what counseling is about. In couples counseling, we work to honor both partners and to foster a bridge in communication. We work on communicating in a healthy way—both couples have a chance to share and be heard. 

Couples counseling benefits both parties, and it can only work if the guy is present too. It takes both sides to repair the relationship. Despite what some might be concerned about, couples counseling is about leveling the playing field. It is about giving the relationship a safe space to air concerns and help the couple to come up with effective solutions. Couples counseling is separate from individual counseling, so if the wife is already seeing a counselor at the office she will see a different one with her spouse. This way there is for sure a level field. 

Counseling can be a great resource for couples. It helps them to gain insight into why they might be acting in a certain way. It helps to open the doors of communication—which in many cases has been bolted shut. It helps to guide couples to solutions they can both accept, and to decide what their future together looks like. Ultimately in situations where both couples are invested in improving the atmosphere of their home, counseling helps to grow their bond. 

It is ok to need help, the first step is admitting that you could use a little guidance and the rest will come in time. 

We are here to help. 

You can read more about our couples counseling services at  http://womenstherapyinstitute.com/couples-counseling/

Should you always play it ‘safe’?

You may have heard the terms before “safe space” and “brave space.” The two have long been debated over—which space is the better place to be?

Being in a safe space means a place that is free of judgment, it is comfortable, and happy and free. It is a place where you can be you without any fear, or retaliation. You can speak your mind or act in any way you want. Being in a safe space might sound amazing. For some, it probably sounds awesome. I mean who doesn’t want to be comfortable all the time. Who wants to feel judgment? But being “safe” all the time has its downfalls. 

Growing as a person

Always being “safe” means never growing as a person. It means not expanding your views. It means not learning how to be a stronger person.  A brave space is a place where you are forced to step out of your comfort zone, to stand up for your beliefs, to have conversations. When you are brave you are taking chances, and learning to trust in yourself. Being brave gives you the opportunities to learn from mistakes, to open your mind. It is a good thing. It is these life experiences that turn us into passionate, kind, strong, humble people. It is these experiences that teach us who we really are deep on the inside. Conquering the things we fear gives us confidence, and shows us that we can persevere in the face of adversity. 

If we always play it safe, we are living a stagnant life. Playing it safe is boring, it is uneventful.  

That is not to say that we should always be forced into brave space. Sometimes it is good to not have to worry, to feel safe to be who we are free of judgment, to be as comfortable as we can be. But, I discourage clients from always being safe. You need to be brave sometimes, you need to challenge your inner-being. The magic happens when you step out of your comfort zone. 

I saw a quote once that said, “You go through the wars to become a warrior.”

Don’t hide who you are, rather peel off the coverups and let yourself shine. Show yourself that inner-strength that you never knew you had until you had to use it. We are all much stronger than we know. You are too beautiful and life is too short to always be comfortable. 

Connecting with loved ones at bedtime: It is good for your health

A healthy bedtime routine with the people we love can be a smart way to close off the day. To let go of stress, and rest peacefully.

Whether it is cuddles with a child, a bedtime kiss, laughing and talking with a spouse, feeling physically or emotionally connected to those we love can decrease cortisone levels and stress-related health risks. It is a routine that everyone in the home can look forward to, and it is a nice way to put some finality into the day…to know you are not alone in this busy life, and tomorrow is a new day. 

A psychological scientist at Wayne State University explored the link between cortisol levels—also known as the stress hormone—and physical health. Cortisol is present in nearly every cell of the body, impacting learning, memory, and emotion. It also helps to regulate the immune system. The scientist Richard Slatcher found the more connected to their relationships people felt, the healthier cortisol levels they had. 

A Healthy Bedtime Routine

Some ideas for a healthy bedtime routine may include:

1.) Exchanging “I love you’s.” This is a good habit to get into because as much as we feel we don’t need to always say it, it helps to hear it and know your children or spouse mean it. It is healthy for everyone. 

2.) Go to bed at the same time as your spouse. This provides time to reconnect, even if only for a few minutes. It is time where it is just the two of you. Even if it is a few exchanges about your day or some more intimate cuddle time, maybe a laugh or two, it is a good healthy habit and keeps you both on the same page. 

3.)Unplug. Bed is not the place for your phone or laptop. Leave that stuff at the door. This is time for your marriage, for your children. 

4.) Prioritize getting a good nights rest. Try to go to bed at an early enough time to get ample sleep. Better sleep means better mental and physical health, and better handling of stressful situations. 

5.) Don’t try to settle arguments. The old saying “don’t go to bed angry” is not always true. Not everything has to be fixed before getting some shut-eye. In some cases, it can be better to get some good rest and then reassess in the morning when you are refreshed and focused. 

6.) Take a few minutes to practice gratitude. Think about one good thing that happened in your day and share it with your spouse or your kids. It will leave the day on a happy note and improve overall mental health. 

Why you should stop asking ‘what’s wrong’

The next time someone is obviously upset or sad try asking them “are you ok?” or “do you want to talk?” Frequently in our culture, we say “is there something wrong?” or “what’s wrong?” And, while it may seem like we are asking the same thing no matter what words we use, the words we use and how our sentence is phrased can have a big impact.

Our minds are very receptive to language. We connect our sadness as “wrong” when we say phrases like “what’s wrong?” Being sad isn’t wrong, we just don’t feel happy and while that is not ideal, it is not wrong to feel upset. This is all part of the Relational Frame Theory (RFT), which is the psychological theory of human language. The theory argues that the building block of human language and understanding is “relating.” Therefore by saying to someone that is sad, “what is wrong?” they — and you— are in turn relating being sad with something wrong. 

Avoiding the ‘freeze up’

Asking “what’s wrong?” tends to make people freeze up and build a wall, and frequently results in a “nothing” response. The phrase itself stigmatizes our feelings, forcing us to only show our “happy” selves. It makes people internalize that the emotions they are feeling are wrong, and in turn, they ask others “what’s wrong?”. It is a never-ending circle. Instead, we should be saying things like “what happened?” , “What’s going on?” , or “How are you feeling?” in a tone that is compassionate and caring. 

While we may think what we say is going in one ear and out the other, it is actually being absorbed in the deepest depths of our brain. Same goes with what we say. By telling ourselves things and saying things to others we are conditioning our brain to think and feel a certain way. We are creating relationships between words and feelings that are not necessarily healthy or true. 

There is no doubt this is complicated stuff but there are lessons for us all here. By thinking about how we word things before we say them and de-conditioning ourselves to these common phrases we can change our mindset as well as that of the people we are interacting with. Words are powerful tools if used correctly.