Feeling lost and/or experiencing imposter syndrome or burnout is common - almost everyone experiences at least one of these issues during their career. Although some methods for dealing with each of these difficulties overlap, let's separate them out to provide more clarity. The most important thing in all of this is to understand that whether you're burnt out, feeling lost, or experiencing imposter syndrome, you are not alone with these feelings.
When feeling lost, it's important to remember that you are in control of your journey. Sometimes, doing some soul searching can help you find what you value and what you crave from life. When I was feeling lost, I realized that I needed to take the time to figure out what my values were and what I wanted most out of my life. Is it the experiences? Working? Travelling? It's different for everyone.
The following are 12 things that are recommended when feeling lost according to LifeHack.
1. Recognize that it's okay. There are times when we as people just need time alone. It's important to learn to be comfortable with being alone with yourself - it can bring you confidence and a sense of self-reliance. 2. Use your 'lost' and loneliness as a self-directed guide. These feelings are signals that indicate that we are in search of something. Recognizing that you feel lost, is a good first step in prompting action to do something about it. 3. Realize that loneliness helps you face the truth. People tend to bury negative emotions and denying their existence, embracing comforting or positive stimuli/environments instead. Solitude can provide us with the clarity to deal with the problem(s) and/or negative emotions at hand. 4. Be aware that you have more control than you think. When we recognize that we are feeling lost, we may tend to fall into a victim mode, where we negatively view everything, but the truth is you choose your attitude and your outlook in every situation. 5. Embrace the freedom that the feeling of being alone can offer. Try recognizing and enjoying the solitude and understanding that you don't need the approval/support of everyone regarding your decisions and ideas. Removing the need for validation in your life can allow you new freedom to do things your way and to think for yourself without the internal pressure to please everyone around you. 6. Acknowledge the person you are now. It's important to understand that people change over time. Learn to accept who you are now, quirks, flaws, and all. Realize that life is about changing and growing and it's okay to not be who you used to be. 7. Keep striving to do your best. Always try to do your best! Other people tend to admire those who have triumphed over obstacles. To live your best life, you have to step out of your comfort zone. 8. Don't forget that time is precious. When we are feeling lost and depressed it's easy to focus on regrets and the past. This only feeds the negative emotions, instead of acknowledging the positive steps you've taken. Keep putting one foot in front of the other so that you can celebrate the struggles that you have overcome at the end of the day. 9. Remember, things happen for a reason. It's important to note that a lesson you learnt may not have only been for you to learn, but for you to pass on that wisdom to someone else who may need it. 10. Journal during this time. Recording your thoughts and feelings when at this point in your life is a great way to create something tangible to reflect on in the future. It can provide great insight into who you are, what matters to you, and how you overcome obstacles to get to where you ended up. 11. Remember that you aren't the first to feel this way. Try confiding in someone you trust and ask how they deal/dealt with feelings of being lost in their life. You may be surprised by what you learn - you can't possibly know what individuals have experienced unless they have elected to share those experiences. 12. Ask for help if the problem persists. It's normal to feel lost for a period of time of being in a "rut" or a "funk" but if the problem persists you shouldn't ignore it. When your ability to reason, think clearly, and consider things rationally becomes impaired, it's important to seek medical help.
Feeling lost in life and your career can be painful and difficult to deal with, but it can also provide a catalyst for change. It's critical to value your mental health and well-being and to seek medical care if you're having trouble distinguishing between a sense of personal freedom and despair.
Sometimes it's not a feeling of being lost that makes us want to re-evaluate our life, but feeling job burnout. Job burnout is related to work-related stress that manifests as a condition of physical or emotional tiredness, along with a sense of diminished accomplishment and loss of personal identity.
When the above occurs, the Mayo Clinic recommends trying these 6 methods to handle it.
1. Evaluate your options. Discuss concerns with your supervisor - it's possible to work with them to change expectations or compromise to reach a solution. Also, if a career change is something that you're looking for, doing some research into other career options may be beneficial. 2. Seek support. Support and collaboration might help you to cope with job burnout. You may also benefit from taking advantage of programs that are available to you such as employee assistance program, mental health programs, or even physical health programs. 3. Try a relaxing activity. Explore activities that are known to help reduce stress like yoga, meditation, or tai chi. 4. Get some exercise. Getting regular physical activity can help you to better deal with stress, and can also help you take your mind off the stress of work. 5. Get some sleep. Sleep is known to restore overall well-being and helps protect your health. 6. Practice mindfulness. The act of concentrating your breath flow and being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at any given time, without interpretation or judgement, is what mindfulness is all about. In the workplace, this strategy entails approaching circumstances with openness, patience, and a lack of judgement.
Consider your alternatives with an open mind. Try not to allow a stressful or unsatisfying job to affect your health.
"Up to 82% of people face feelings of imposter phenomenon, struggling with the sense they haven’t earned what they’ve achieved and are a fraud." (Bravata et al., 2020)
Palmer lists 7 strategies that help you to overcome imposter syndrome.
1. Learn the facts.. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture. What facts support the fact that you deserve to be in your role? In the process, monitor your internal dialogue. One simple exercise to help you monitor your internal dialogue is to imagine how you might support a friend who minimizes their accomplishments and then apply the same supportive language that you would use for them to your own narration. 2. Share your feelings. Palmer recommends being strategic about who you share with - sharing with a colleague can promote comparison and increase the feeling of being an imposter, whereas sharing with trusted individuals outside of your work circle can provide a more helpful picture of your accomplishments and value. If your imposter feelings rise to a level where they negatively impact your functioning, consider turning to therapy to work through these thoughts and feelings. 3. Celebrate your successes. Individuals who struggle with feeling like an imposter tend to brush off their accomplishments. While simply reflecting on your efforts is helpful, external, concrete reminders are also important (for example; saving and printing out an email from a client praising the work you completed for them is a great way to keep around a concrete reminder of your accomplishment). 4. Let go of perfectionism. Adjusting your standards for success can make it easier to see and internalize your accomplishments. When you feel that you aren't meeting your standards, try to reframe them from 'failures' to 'opportunities' to learn and grow. 5. Cultivate self-compassion. Mindfulness can help you let go of perfectionism by shifting your focus of self-worth from an external to an internal one. Try to notice when you have imposter syndrome feelings and how you react to them. Palmer advises thinking about the underlying causes of the imposter syndrome feelings and reminding yourself that your successes aren't a measure of your worth. Choosing community above competitiveness can also be a beneficial coping method. 6. Share your failures. Discussing failures in a group can help portray a more realistic view of what people are struggling with. For example, when you look at your CV you see the papers you’ve published but are also aware of all of your papers that were rejected. It's important to keep in mind that when you see a colleague has published a paper, you don’t know what failures they may have experienced behind the scenes. Comparing your worst to someone else’s best can spark comparison, which can aggravate imposter feelings. 7. Accept it. Taming feelings of being an imposter doesn't mean they'll never show up again. It's common for them to pop back up any time you experience a career shift, especially if the people around you have different achievements.
While feeling lost, job burnout, and imposter syndrome are common, they can be overcome. Hopefully these tips and ideas can help you find a new sense of confidence and freedom in your careers!