Breaking The Cycle of Feeling Like an Impostor

Sometimes I feel like an impostor. Especially over the past couple months, it’s been difficult to get back on track after life takes you down an unplanned path. Even with my certification in nutrition, I would eat unhealthy but give advice to others. I wasn’t exercising as much as I once did, but gave my opinion on different exercise plans. The fact is, to some degree, I relapsed… not back into drugs, but back into an unhealthy life and had troubles getting back into the swing of things. My battle plan wasn’t being implemented any more. With my confidence shaken, I began having thoughts that may be familiar to you as well…

I don’t belong here.
I’m not good enough.
I got lucky.
They’re going to realize I’m that smart.

Researching it more, I stumbled upon something called the Impostor Syndrome which “is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”

By why does this happen? Most people who suffer from Impostor Syndrome are fully competent. Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, had an idea:

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. – Bertrand Russell

Additionally, psychologists found something called the Dunning–Kruger effect which “is a cognitive bias wherein relatively unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate.” Basically, think of the first few contestants in America’s Got Talent.

And this happens with a ton of successful people:

Albert Einstein:

…the exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.

Maya Angelou:

I have written eleven books, but each time I think, “Uh-oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.”

So, what have I done to cut the cycle of feeling like I’m an impostor? Well, first off, I must admit that I believe this feeling is something that will always creep up. The only thing I can do, I believe, is to become more aware and mindful of when the feeling starts creeping in and examine why and how it made it’s way into my mind.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve done:

1) Take Off The Mask

For some reason, I’ve been comfortable in telling everyone about my accomplishments of beating addiction and obesity, but writing this post has been terribly difficult. I wanted to write it sooner… actually, I’ve been wanting to writing for about a month now. It’s not me telling the world that I’m a fraud, but it’s more about telling the world and those going through their own journey that they may find themselves down an unplanned path. Like many addicts, relapsing is hard on the mind and body. It’s hard to shake the mindset that you can rebound, which leads me to my next point…

Growth vs Fixed Mindset2) Focus On The Growing Mindset

In a previous post, I spoke about the Growth vs Fixed mindsets mentioned by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. This also goes along with my belief in stripping away performance goals and learn towards learning goals. I’ve been focusing on how I can improve any aspect of my life, even if it’s just by 1% (something that one of my favorite writers, James Altucher discusses in Choose Yourself! and The 1% Rule for Creating All Habits).

“The 1% Rule can be applied to everything. If I spend 1 less minute feeling regret and use that to feel gratitude, how much better for my stress levels will that be in one year’s time.” – James Altucher

Getting back on track requires small steps, and that’s why I love applying the 1% rule everyday until I’m back on track firing on all cylinders.

3) Aim For “Good Enough”

At my job, we often discuss what’s a “minimal viable product.” Without going too technical, it’s part of the Agile Manifesto and lean manufacturer principles originally developed by Toyota. Basically, when we think about a feature we think about what’s the smallest increment we can release to get us towards the final feature we want. It’s not settling for a sub par feature, but we’re always looking for simplicity. We’re looking for what’s “good enough” from the get go. This is important as it also allows us to constantly adapt when we notice things aren’t going as we originally planned, or, more importantly, when bugs are discovered we can squash them before they get out of hand. And bugs do happen, in fact, did you know that Microsoft begins every project with the certain knowledge that they will choose to ship [a software product] with known bugs?

Being good enough isn’t settling for a lower standard. Barry Schwartz, psychologist and author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, says, “The single most important piece of advice I can give is: Remember that good enough is almost always good enough. If people go through life looking for good enough results, the choice problem will take care of itself. Go through your day getting a good enough cup of coffee and a good enough toasted bagel and so on and so on and life will look much sunnier.”

Being good enough is the secret to happiness. Instead of constantly trying to keep up appearances and the illusion that you’re perfect, accept that you’re not. Don’t build on self-confidence, but rather build on self-compassion and learn to forgive yourself when you screw up.

That’s it!

As author Neil Gaiman says:

The moment that you feel, just possibly, you are walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind, and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself…That is the moment, you might be starting to get it right.

Lastly, it’s important to know that everyone wears a mask every now and then. It’s part of life. However, from now on if I’m going to be wearing a mask it won’t be because I’m an impostor, it will be because I want to be a super hero. And being a true super hero means allowing everyone to know who you are, how you are, your vulnerabilities, and what you want out of life.

Your Genes, Your Health, and Your Life

NutrigenomicsThere’s been a lot of talk about nutrition and your genes lately; so, since I’ve recently completed my Level 1 Certification from Precision Nutrition I figured I’d give my input. A few months ago, I asked my friend, Dr. Maulik Shah of Genetic Medicine Clinic, who specializes in personalized medicine, about running a DNA test on me to get a better understanding of my background and what’s working for or against me. The results were astounding.

Dr. Shah uses a service called Pathway Genomics to process the test and the results have a couple categories:

  • Eating Behaviors
  • Exercise Response
  • Health Conditions
  • Metabolic Health Factors
  • Medication Response
  • Nutritional Needs
  • Weight & Diet

In addition, they recommend a diet plan based on your macro nutrient needs (protein, fat, and carbohydrates).

Based solely on my genes, I discovered a few things: Based on research, I am more likely to have a lack of restraint towards eating, I have an increased desire for food, and I’m more likely to have a sweet tooth!  When it comes to exercise, my genes show I’d have an enhanced benefit from endurance training and my insulin sensitivity response also shows an enhanced benefit.

The diet plan the recommended for me is what they call a “balanced diet” which consists of 20% protein, 25% fat, and 55% carbohydrates. This originally shocked me; however, after learning more about calorie and carbohydrate timing & cycling, it seemed reasonable enough to attempt and have since lost ~10lbs since implementing it in March (I basically eat low carb, unless it’s post workout).

What’s been even more interesting is comparing the results with sites like 23andMe and then using a tool called Promethease. Promethease has been incredibly insightful and matches up pretty well with the results from Pathway Genomics. One interesting note is that one gene (Rs1815739(C;C)) says: “This genotype indicates better performing muscles, particularly for sprinting and power sports. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are able to produce alpha-actinin-3. Professional sprinters usually have this, although it is less common for endurance athletes.” Why is this interesting? Well, for one, I enjoy sprinting and power lifting. Secondly, it seems at first to conflict with the “enhanced benefit from endurance training” but I don’t think that’s the case. Instead, I think that means that by doing something that goes against what’s “easier” for my body, I would have enhanced benefit from it.

Unrelated to nutrition, I also found out that I have both the Rs1799913(C;C) and Rs1800497(C;T), which has been linked to a higher tendency to develop addictive behaviors. Interesting, huh?

Another tool I used, Genetic Genie, showed that I had some homozygous mutations in the COMT gene. “COMT (catechol-O-methyltransferase) helps break down certain neurotransmitters and catecholamines. These include dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. COMT is important to the areas of the pre-frontal cortex. This area of the brain is involved with personality, inhibition of behaviors, short-term memory, planning, abstract thinking, and emotion.” Combine this mutation with my drug abuse past, this could explain why my short memory is abysmal.

What are your thoughts on genes and the role they play in your life and health?

Taking The Next Step in Nutrition with Precision Nutrition

Precision NutritionIt’s been a while (ok, a long time) since my last post here, and it’s mainly due to the fact that I kind of lost some steam. I looked at the journey that I must take ahead of me to make my dream become a reality, and it looked daunting and expensive. Further, there were so many options I could take… should I focus on becoming a personal trainer? What about my “personal brand” and speaking? How about organizing events that support a cause (ie:  formalized event around Active For Recovery Bike Ride)? Or, should I do events that encourage more play? All of these ideas take time and I’m extremely passionate about seeing them come to fruition.

However, earlier this week I read an article and I took it as a sign. The article, Off the Drugs, Onto the Cupcakes, struck home to me. My lowest weight, 155lbs, was when I was addicted to a variety of substances. However, once I got off the drugs my weight slowly ballooned to over 330lbs. In the article, author Abby Ellin explains how many recovery centers focus on simply getting the user “off their substance” without any concern on what happens next or how to educate the addict on how to properly nourish their bodies so that they could begin to live and thrive. Further, since I never went to AA or NA, I found it extremely interesting how they suggest that “recovering addicts keep candy on hand.”

I fully believe this is why many recovering addicts simply transfer their addiction from drugs into eating sugary, fried, and other hyperpalatable foods.

What I found to be incredibly important in my own journey is to realize that in order to make a true lifestyle change, you have to change how you view nutrition. I needed to stop looking at “diets” and stop beating myself up over “bad days” when I eat well the other 80-90% of the time.

Anyway, after reading this article I determined that I this is where I can make the biggest difference and try to offer something new. I also recalled how I really respected Precision Nutrition and John Berardi. I like how they don’t preach a “one diet for all” approach and they really dig into the science behind it all.

So, yesterday I took the leap and signed up for their Level 1 Certification and I’m so freakin excited to start learning more about nutrition and digging in a little deeper. I’m hoping to complete the certification within 8-12 weeks! I’ll keep you all posted!

So Freakin Excited