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Canadian Living's Father's Day special
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If you think you're not good enough, you can join the club, because many women experience impostor syndrome. But, contrary to popular belief, it turns out that a little self-doubt isn't such a bad thing after all.
Tara Sutton is an award-winning war correspondent and documentary filmmaker from Toronto. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York's Columbia University, and she was the first foreign reporter to enter Fallujah, Iraq, after the siege in 2004 to document human rights abuses during the Iraq War. She's also given talks all over the world. But, sometimes, Sutton feels like a fraud.
"When I was in Iraq, I was the only video journalist and I was freelancing," says Sutton. "Everybody else had security experts and crews and flak jackets, and I didn't have any of that stuff. I'd lie there at night thinking, You're so useless. You don't know what you're doing. Why are you even here? I always felt so inferior, like I wasn't as qualified as everyone else."
What is it?
Though impostor phenomenon, or impostor syndrome, as it's commonly called, was first identified in 1978 to describe high-achieving people who dismiss, minimize or ignore evidence of their abilities, Sutton only recognized the symptoms in herself after reading an article about it in The New York Times. Since then, high-profile people—from Mike Myers (who famously said, "I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me") to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg—have publicly admitted that they had a problem.
In an article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, research estimates that 70 percent of us will, at least once in our lives, fear being exposed as frauds, no matter how successful we are. "People who feel like impostors have a hard time internalizing and owning their accomplishments and, instead, ascribe them to things like luck, timing, connections or computer error," says Valerie Young, the author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.
These feelings are especially common for students and people in creative fields such as writing, acting and music. "You're judged subjectively and are perceived as being only as good as your last book, film, show or assignment," says Young. "You have to continually prove yourself in ways you wouldn't if you were in an accounting department or in customer service." That self-doubt is also more common among women, minorities and people who grew up poor or working class. "Whenever you're in a group for whom there are stereotypes about competence, you're more susceptible," says Young.
How to make impostor syndrome work for you
Alicia Liu first blogged about her brush with impostor syndrome in 2013, and she has revisited the topic several times since. The Canadian computer programmer, who now lives in San Francisco, wrote about how feeling like a fake made her reluctant to speak up for fear of sounding stupid. "The stakes were even higher because I was the only female engineer on nearly every team I've been on, so I felt I was representing my gender," she wrote. "I quietly avoided doing things I didn't think I'd be good at, even though the only way to get better is to do them." That's one of the problems with impostor syndrome—it can hold you back from learning. It may even make you overprepare, which "leads to unnecessary work and potential burnout," says Liu.
But Pamela Catapia, a registered clinical counsellor in Vancouver, says there can be benefits to feeling this way. "If you have impostor syndrome, you're likely a caring, conscientious, talented person who has both the desire and the capacity to improve the world," she says. She points to her clients as evidence; many of them tell her they feel like impostors, but, for the most part, they're actually extremely competent with unrecognized or underutilized leadership skills.
While Catapia admits that impostor syndrome can lead to procrastination, self-sabotage, anxiety and overwork, she says it is possible to make those feelings work for you. The secret is to recognize the good and the bad of impostor syndrome—and hang on to the good. "If overpreparing for things is working, keep that strategy. But if you're feeling burned out and exhausted, dial it down," she says. Young agrees. "I don't like to hear people say 'stop being a perfectionist,' because that's not helpful. You do things because you're getting something out of it. So I ask people, 'What's the good part about being a perfectionist that you want to keep?' If you care deeply about the quality of your work—not everyone does—keep that part, but let go of any shame you might feel over minor and very human imperfections."
Sutton credits impostor syndrome with helping her become a better journalist, though she didn't realize it at the time. "The benefit of feeling that way is that I asked so many questions. I had no assumptions that I knew what was going on," she says. "It also led me to do a lot more listening than talking."
There are still days when Sutton's self-doubt resurfaces, especially when it comes to public speaking. "Whenever I start to write a speech, I feel like I don't have anything to say. Now I know it's just a feeling, but in the beginning, I believed it was true."
Make peace with your inner critic
Though impostor syndrome can push us to achieve, it can also do more harm than good, leading to anxiety, procrastination and burnout. Here's what to do if the negatives start to outweigh the positives.
1. Know that you're normal
We often assume that struggling with confidence in a new situation is proof that we're impostors, says self-help speaker and author Valerie Young. But those feelings are normal. "Of course you're going to feel off base at first," she says. "If you're starting a new job, instead of thinking, I don't belong here, try, This is going to be hard for a while. This is new for me, and mastering or taking on new things is hard." She adds that, unless you're a narcissist, you should have feelings of self-doubt every now and then. "If it's your first time doing something, you haven't had time to develop the confidence that comes from prior experience."
2. Put it in context
Consider why feelings of inadequacy are there in the first place, says computer programmer Alicia Liu. "It's not merely a personal issue—though impostor syndrome is too often framed as purely personal. For me, it also reflected the discrimination and stereotyping in the tech industry and wider culture." Your own experience may be rooted in childhood or exacerbated by dismissive coworkers or cultural stereotypes. "You need to sort through your beliefs about yourself and your talents and to examine which belong to you and which came from others," says clinical counsellor Pamela Catapia. "Think about the beliefs that protect, guide and encourage you to grow versus the ones that shame and control you and keep you stuck." When you acknowledge how other people's attitudes might be holding you back, it's easier to feel worthy and confident.
3. Change your mind
"If you want to stop feeling like an impostor, you have to stop thinking like one," says Young. "This means reframing the way you think about competence, failure and fear. If you get an assignment that feels beyond you, instead of thinking, I have no idea what I'm doing, the reframe is, Wow! I'm really going to learn a lot," she says. And remember, your body doesn't know the difference between fear and excitement—sweaty palms and a dry throat come from both. "As you're walking to the podium or going to meet with your boss, just keep thinking, I'm excited. The best part is that, over time, you will be."
Anna Wintour costume for kids.
Halloween is just around the corner and kids are (arguably) the most excited to dress up. If you're struggling to find costume ideas, don't stress! We've rounded up some of the best Halloween costumes for trick-or-treating.
Waffles blow my mind.
Adventure is out there!
Surprise! I'm Superman.
All eyes on me.
This costume is a blast!
In the name of the moon, I will right wrong and triumph over evil!
The cutest Squirtle in the Pokemon world.
Fighting crime, one hop at a time.
The coolest droid in the galaxy.
Look at my tail! Isn't it neat?
Headaches are one of the most common health complaints for Canadian women. Here's the rundown on five types of headaches: what causes them, how to proven them and how to feel better faster.
Headache type: Tension
If you've ever experienced a headache—and who hasn't?—this is probably one you've had. "It's your regular garden-variety headache, with aching around your whole head and more steady pressure than migraines," says Dr. Michael Zitney, the director of the Headache & Pain Relief Centre in Toronto. You're not likely to have any nausea, and there won't be sensory sensitivity. "You can usually still watch TV or work at your computer, for example, through a tension headache," he explains.
Why they happen: Doctors used to think tension headaches were caused by too-tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, face and head, but experts now believe they might be due to inflammation of the lining and main nerve areas in the brain. "Some of the triggers can be similar to migraine triggers," says Dr. Farnaz Amoozegar, a neurologist in Calgary. These include stress, sleep and dietary factors.
Treatment options: Most tension headaches will go away on their own, but taking ibuprofen, acetaminophen or acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin) can help. There are also preventive medications that can help reduce the frequency or severity of chronic tension headaches, ones that occur more than 15 days a month; your doctor might recommend a muscle relaxant or an antidepressant (amitriptyline and nortriptyline are a couple of the common forms), though the latter needs to be gradually increased and can take a few weeks to start working.
Headache type: Migraine
These headaches, which typically last four to 72 hours, are one of the most common in women—about one-quarter of us suffer from them, compared to about eight percent of men. The diagnostic criteria are very specific, says Dr. Sian Spacey, a neurologist, physician and director of The University of British Columbia's Headache Clinic in Vancouver. Patients must have two of the following characteristics: throbbing, moderate to severe pain, unilateral pain (on one side of your head) and pain that worsens with activity. They must also experience nausea and vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound.
Why they happen: Frustratingly, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause, but it seems to be a mix of genetics and environmental factors. If you have a family history of migraines, you might be more prone to them. And there are common triggers, says Dr. Zitney. These include substances found in foods (MSG, nitrates and other preservatives, aspartame, alcohol and ca eine), lifestyle factors (skipping meals, dehydration and getting too much or too little sleep), weather changes, stress and fluctuating hormone levels thanks to our menstrual cycles.
Treatment options: Dr. Zitney recom-mends three stages of treatment. "The simplest and easiest thing to use is an anti-inflammatory," he says, adding that over-the-counter ibuprofen is a good option, as are prescription medications such as naproxen. If those don't o er relief, the second stage is triptans, migraine-specific medications that target pain at its source. "Migraine pain develops from a circuit of neuronal pathways and molecules in the brain,"says Dr. Amoozegar. "Once these path- ways were discovered, scientists began working on medications that specifically target them." There are seven triptans approved for use in Canada. They're available by prescription and come in oral, injectable and nasal-spray forms— but they're not an option if you have heart problems, as they can increase your risk of a serious cardiac event. You can also use a triptan and an anti-inflammatory in combination, as they approach pain in different ways. The last stage is a stronger painkiller, used sparingly—and only if you aren't at risk for addiction.
It's also worth asking your doctor about preventive meds, like antiseizure medication, beta-blockers and even Botox (which works by inhibiting the release of pain-related molecules). And if your menstrual cycle triggers migraines, you can also look into hormonal manipulation. "If it's safe for you to use the birth control pill or the hormonal IUD, you can fool your body into not having periods, which stops menstrual-related migraines," says Dr. Zitney.
Headache type: Medication-overuse
Formerly known as rebound headaches, these tend to occur in patients who have a high frequency of headaches and take a lot of painkillers, says Dr. Amoozegar. Folks who get migraines tend to be more prone to this type of headache, especially those who take medication for their migraines more often than they should.
Why they happen: It's the headache we cause ourselves due to regular, long-term use of painkillers, says Dr. Zitney. "If you take medications too often, they can turn around and bite you," he adds. "The head- aches start to come more often. Then, when the medication wears off, you have to take more, which brings on another headache. It's a pattern that's very hard to get out of once you're in it." As a general rule, it's OK to use medication (either over-the-counter or prescription) to treat headaches about 10 out of every 30 days. But if you find your-self using drugs more than 15 days out of the month for three consecutive months, see your doctor.
Treatment options: Education is key. "People need to know that their meds are the culprit," says Dr. Amoozegar. "Depending on what they're using, they need to gradually stop taking painkillers and start taking preventive medication." Beta-blockers and antiseizure medication aren't painkillers, but they can help reduce the frequency of migraines.
Headache type: Cluster
This is a rare, distinct type of headache. Cluster headaches are often seasonal or occur during the same time every year (or every couple of years). "These are shorter headaches that last from 15 minutes to three hours. They're unilateral and accompanied by symptoms like tearing, a droopy eyelid, a change in pupil size and nasal congestion on the side of the face where the pain is," says Dr. Spacey. This is the most severe type of headache you can get, and it's been dubbed the "suicide headache" because of the sufferers who have either committed suicide or thought about it during a cluster attack. Though they're more common in men than women, a 2012 study in the Journal of Neurological Sciences found that when women do get cluster headaches, they tend to have more daytime attacks and worse pain during nighttime attacks.
Why they happen: Causes haven't been pinpointed, but there's evidence that suggests abnormalities in the hypothalamus (the part of the brain that regulates sleep- wake cycles) could be part of the problem. Cluster headaches usually occur in the spring or fall, and triggers vary widely. Alcohol can worsen an attack.
Treatment options: Over-the-counter drugs won't make a dent in treating a cluster headache, nor will triptans (the attack is usually over before they kick in). For the drugs that do offer relief, opt for injections or nasal sprays, which are often faster acting. Giving the sufferer oxygen via a mask can also help some patients.
Headache type: Sinuses
You know those throbbing headaches where you also have a fever, a runny nose, congestion, an icky green discharge and pain in your face? That sounds like a sinus headache, says Dr. Amoozegar. But, she adds, they're often misdiagnosed. Many headaches that occur in the face are actually migraines; it can only be a sinus headache if you also have a sinus infection or another serious sinus issue.
Why they happen: Blame inflammation of the sinuses (a.k.a. sinus- itis), which is caused by anything that stops them from draining properly, such as a cold or flu, allergies or respiratory infections.
Treatment options: The first step is a visit to the doctor's office to confirm you have a sinus infection. If you do, you'll likely get a prescription for antibiotics. Ibuprofen, acetaminophen or acetylsalicylic acid can help ease the pain while you're waiting for the meds to kick in.
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Learn how feng shui techniques can declutter your home and create positive space in your life.
Do you want to bring happiness, good fortune and wellness into your life this year? Turn to the positive energies of feng shui as your guide. The ancient Chinese art of living in harmony with your environment can help spruce up your home and simultaneously create balance and joy.
Bridget Saraka, the Saskatoon-based owner of Feng Shui by Bridget, says the practice offers life-changing benefits. "Feng shui is about creating a space that's not only pleasing to your eye, but also pleasing to all your senses, so that your home supports and enriches your life," she says. "How we live has a profound impact on what our experiences will be. When you apply feng shui principles to your home, you can attract a great new year."
If your home is cluttered, dimly lit and has poorly arranged furniture, feng shui principles state that your life will be filled with obstacles and present few opportunities for growth. As a result, your job, relationships, finances and health can become stagnant. By making a few small changes, you can revitalize your space and your life. Here are six simple tips to get started:
1. Make your front door visible to receive blessings
In feng shui, a hard-to-read house number or a blocked walkway to a door will prevent positive energy from entering the home. "Have an address that's easy to see from the street and a path from your front door into your home that isn't cluttered with obstacles," says Saraka. "If the universe can't find you, how can fortunate blessings find you?"
2. Add colour for good health
Taupes and other neutral colours are popular in home decor, but they might contribute to low moods and energy levels during Canada's long, dark winters. "They're the wrong colour palate for Canadians because many of us suffer from seasonal affective disorder," says Saraka. From a feng shui perspective, these colours absorb the winter light, leaving Canadians feeling depressed and directionless.
To boost health and energy, start by painting your walls. "Choose a colour that's warm yet still reflects light – soft yellows, soft greens – colours that give a feeling of the sun and nature," says Saraka. "Green makes all colours pop, plus it's about life, vitality, growth and new vibrations." If you can't afford to paint, use colourful accessories—accent pillows, throws, live flowers, lighting in dark corners—to ignite powerful energy shifts in your home. "It's the easiest and most affordable way to do it," says Saraka.
3. Edit your belongings
Clear the bad vibes that accompany clutter. "Go through your home with a keen eye to what no longer serves you. If you haven't worn or used it within a year, donate it," says Saraka. "If it's broken and you're not going to repair it, remove it from the space. This editing practice opens up your home so you have room to experience a new chapter." Items that hold upsetting memories should be removed, too.
4. Let indoor plants and water bring prosperity
¨Want to attract wealth this year? Bring plants and a water fountain into your home. "Jade plants and fountains are symbols that represent wealth and finance in feng shui," says Saraka. Your health may also benefit from plants and flowers inside the home. "They purify the air," says Saraka, "And as you nurture the plant, you're nurturing yourself."
5. Position furniture for safety
If you don't feel safe and comfortable in your home, your furniture placement might be to blame. "Feng shui is first and foremost about comfort and safety," says Saraka. "Make sure that the largest piece of furniture in any room is in a position where you can see the door. If the sofa or head of the bed is against the same wall as the door, you can't see who is coming in. This creates a sense of vulnerability."
6. Use essential oils to attain happiness
Essential oils can help clear negative energy and add happy vibes to your home. "Put distilled water in a spritzer bottle, add three to six droplets of oil, and then spritz the air," says Saraka. If someone has been ill, Saraka recommends a blend of frankincense and cinnamon. ¨"To infuse a space with joy, use rose and orange essential oils. Rose is about love. Orange is about joy. So you're infusing joyful love into your space." Essential oils can be purchased from most health-food stores.
For more feng shui tips, check out how you can declutter your car.