I might seem im­pres­sive, but I feel in­fe­rior at work and in my per­sonal life

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Eq -

Q. I am in my mid-20s and do­ing well in my ca­reer by out­side mea­sures, but I feel in­ad­e­quate at work and in my per­sonal life. It is like se­vere im­pos­tor syn­drome - I con­stantly feel like I don’t have my act to­gether even though my friends and fam­ily al­ways tell me they’re im­pressed with where I am in life. I don’t trust my­self to make proper de­ci­sions, and I don’t put my­self out there in the dat­ing world be­cause I feel like any given guy would eas­ily skip over me to look else­where. It sounds hor­ri­ble when I type it out.

A. These types of feel­ings are not un­com­mon (but what do I know, be­sides an alarm­ing amount about smoked gouda?). Yours do sound like they are get­ting in your way quite a bit, though. It’s one thing to be ner­vous about de­ci­sions, but quite an­other to refuse ever to trust your judg­ment dur­ing them. And most peo­ple will ex­pe­ri­ence some first-date jit­ters, but for you to avoid dat­ing al­to­gether be­cause you re­ally be­lieve there are so many op­tions bet­ter than you - that’s a more sig­nif­i­cant and en­trenched prob­lem.

There are many ways this could have grown over time. It prob­a­bly has to do with the way you de­vel­oped self­worth; maybe it was al­ways about some­one else’s (a par­ent’s?) yard­stick. Maybe it was a per­fec­tion­is­tic en­vi­ron­ment, or an un­due fo­cus on sta­tus or ap­pear­ances, or maybe “fail­ure” was con­cep­tu­alised as such a scary con­cept that it paral­ysed you from let­ting your­self be an au­ton­o­mous per­son, for fear of screw­ing up. Maybe you are ge­net­i­cally prone to­ward anx­i­ety and were tar­geted with harsh so­cial judg­ment early on, trig­ger­ing you to be hy­per-vig­i­lant to what other peo­ple think and whether you mea­sure up.What­ever it is, ther­apy can help you un­tan­gle this and, most im­por­tant, work on it.

Q. I want to gen­tly sug­gest to my hus­band that he get screened for ADD. But he has a his­tory of tak­ing things very per­son­ally - he is a per­fec­tion­ist who can’t stand to fall short - and so I don’t want this to seem like I am find­ing fault with him. Please ad­vise.

A. It’s kind to be mind­ful of this, but beat­ing around the bush will only get you so far. If he’ll be of­fended by your per­cep­tion that he needs to be screened, you can’t com­pletely avoid that. But to soften it, you can try the fake­breezily-spon­ta­neous ap­proach (“I saw an ar­ti­cle about ADD to­day - I guess it’s more preva­lent than I re­alised. A few symp­toms were sur­pris­ing, some things you strug­gle with. Have you ever won­dered about it?”).

You could also re­flect back spe­cific things that he has ex­pressed: If he’s frus­trated that he can’t keep things or­gan­ised, or has for­got­ten his fifth ap­point­ment, or is called out dur­ing meet­ings for zon­ing out, then it’s not crit­i­cis­ing him, but rather em­pathis­ing with his dif­fi­cul­ties. It won’t seem so much like find­ing fault if you em­pha­sise that the whole pur­pose of a screen­ing - which doesn’t even mean he surely has ADD - is to glean in­for­ma­tion that could lead to help­ful changes. –Bo­nior, a Wash­ing­ton, D.C.area clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, writes a weekly re­la­tion­ships ad­vice col­umn in The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Ex­press daily tabloid and is author of “The Friend­ship Fix.”

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