Impostor Syndrome

Psychology: Impostor Syndrome

Last night walking home with my husband, we talked a lot about our fears. He is an athlete, a mixed martial arts sportsman, which is kind of hard and scary thing to do. So, he has a contest in seven days, one of hundreds that he had to do, in his sport career. 

Anyway, he started sharing with me, how anxious, troubled and maybe unprepared he feels, for what’s laying ahead. 

On the other hand, I’m a sport psychologist, who just started a career in the field. Of course, I wanted to help. To ease his mind, he’s worries. But I’m scared. 

Thoughts rushing in my mind. I don’t have enough experience, knowledge … insight or that he is seeing me, like the goofy nerdy wife, that sometimes I’m. And not the professional that situation demands it.

Well, the next video, once again, reminds me that this is the story of all of us. 

Doesn’t matter how old you are, or young, how big is your account, or not, how much experienced you are, or just at the beginning, all of us, feel sometimes like an “ impostor “. 

And eventually, is not a bad feeling, it is a transformative step in your development.

Performance Psychology

Performance Psychology

Over the past half century, the branch of performance psychology has grown dramatically to focus on studying the human factors that enable individuals, teams, and groups to reach their goals for achieving success.

Although it is often stereotypically associated with high-end performance in the arena of professional sports, the discipline studies human traits that can be applied to performance in business, performing arts, fitness, the military, or any other domain with a performance component.

In fact, many performance psychologists conduct their work with the goal of facilitating peak performance guidelines into best practice through even the most mundane elements of our daily lives and interpersonal relationships too.


What Performance Psychologists Do

Performance psychologists are given the responsibility of helping individuals or groups of people identify the positive mindset for developing, enhancing, and maintaining optimal human performance in a variety of applications.

Whether working with athletes, singers, dancers, actors, business owners, soldiers, leaders, doctors, or just average joes, performance psychologists will draw on psychological principles on the human mind to develop the mental skills that are needed to become better at what they already excel at. In most cases, performance psychologists will conduct research studies on attitude, motivation, personality, teamwork, leadership, visualization, self-programming, concentration, training, and other related domains to develop a toolkit that can be utilized to obtain peak performance.

Performance psychologists have the mission of broadening clients’ skills and training them with more healthy habits to perform consistently at high levels in pressure situations.


Different Career Options in Performance Psychology

Through their expertise in goal-setting and mental training for improved performance, these psychologists can find a wide variety of career options available in helping people work towards becoming the highest possible versions of themselves. As with in other branches, performance psychologists are often employed in academia as university or college professors to teach courses in the field as well as conduct research studies on peak performance.

However, those who take a practitioner approach are more likely to be found providing training insights in private practices, corporations, professional athletic teams, schools, community clinics, performing arts organizations, fitness centers, and even certain hospital departments.


How to Become a Performance Psychologist

Master’s degree programs are available to prepare students for careers in coaching or consulting work, but they will not fulfill the qualifications for becoming a psychologist. In most cases, performance psychologists earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree from an accredited graduate school to provide an adequate academic foundation for specializing their career in this discipline.

While there are an increased number of programs available specifically in performance or sports psychology, many aspiring performance psychologists are trained in counseling, clinical, cognitive-behavioral, industrial/organizational, or community psychology before choosing their concentration area in performance.

Students who are enrolled in APA-accredited doctoral degree programs will be required to complete a year-long internship, which should be completed in a setting related to performance.

As the difference between success and failure grows larger in our society, many individuals in sports, business, performing arts, and other high performance domains are increasingly seeking out psychologists with the skills to help them become better tomorrow than they are today.

Therefore, performance psychology is a developing discipline that strives to meet this demand by producing scientifically proven strategies for building stronger mental health and facilitating peak performance among top achievers in all domains.



Mind Hacks

Mind Hacks

Our negative mindset can feel so powerful that we can easily lose sight of how quickly they can change for the better. They are significantly more malleable than you may believe. It’s no understatement to say that they’re often based on a house of cards.

These mind hacks originate from the Stoic Roman philosophers Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel; they had the answers thousands of years ago, before contemporary mindfulness, as we practice it in the West, was even a “thing”. Stoicism has been brought to the mainstream by contemporary philosopher Bill Irvine, as well as mindfulness teacher Sam Harris.

Here’s the crash course: What has happened to us is tragic; our quality of life is considerably better than that of our ancestors, but we’re not happier than they were. This depressing phenomenon is called hedonic adaptation: We get used to new pleasures, sources of happiness, and conveniences, and, thus, our threshold for what makes us happy inexorably rises. We become increasingly dissatisfied even as our lives get increasingly better.

For example, contemporarily, we continue to get used to luxuries, such as widespread internet, GPS, running water, and a flushing toilet, to the point that we have stopped appreciating them and, even worse, merely expect them. When this happens, our hedonic set-point (what needs to happen to make us happy, or feel good now) continues to climb progressively higher, leaving us in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction, no matter how much better our lives get.

To me, this is nothing short of a tragedy.

Unfortunately, the consumerist culture in the United States encourages hedonic adaptation by always trying to get us hooked on the “next best thing.” You can see this when WiFi or your iPhone malfunctions for a few minutes, and you righteously and indignantly complain: we’ve become entitled to a luxury that’s only over a decade old.

It also explains why a significant number of millionaires feel like failures because they’re not billionaires, and may be clinically depressed because of it. I’m not joking. Fortunately, we can interrupt hedonic adaptation and literally lower our hedonic set-points to wire our brains for more happiness.

Here are five hacks

1. Negative visualization is when you intentionally imagine how much worse your life would be if you didn’t have what you have.

This can refer to your relationships, car, friends, health, five intact senses, etc. It also includes imagining all the things that could have gone wrong, but haven’t. I know this doesn’t sound fun, but you’ll see its value after you do it, just like brushing your teeth when you just want to sleep, or going to work out even when you’re in a lethargic stupor. This seemingly basic mental hack directly lowers your hedonic set-point (so you’re happier more easily) and buffers you against the tragic hedonic adaptation ubiquitous in our society.

So, consider a few things, right now, that could be going wrong, or could have gone wrong, but haven’t. Imagine all the car accidents you could have had, earthquakes you could have endured, birth defects you could have been born with, or cancer you could have been diagnosed with, etc. Also, consider what it would be like to lose a few things that you really value now, such as your job, home, computer, spouse, health, and not having what you have.

This breaks the continual pattern of always wanting the next thing instead of savoring what you have. Happiness is really more about wanting what you have than getting the next thing.

2. Setbacks will happen; they’re inevitable.

You’ll bang your foot, you’ll get a ticket, a loved one will get sick, etc. So, wishing them away or dreading them simply causes more suffering. There’s an attractive alternative. Projective visualization is when you imagine a recent setback actually happening to someone else. This helps us get distance from our pain, because others’ misfortune is more palatable than our own. It really can take the edge off our own pain.

If a close friend had the setback, what would you tell them? How would you feel about what happened to them? It would seem more manageable and not as bad, right? This, in fact, is the “witnessing perspective” that we cultivate in mindfulness meditation. It’s also the root of loving-kindnessmeditation, in which we deliberately cultivate feelings of compassion and wellness for all.

This is also similar to video-game framing, in which you imagine a setback like you’re in a video game, and it’s a test of your resilience and strength—an enticing challenge to overcome.

3. Adopt the story-telling frame.

When misfortune strikes, which it inevitably will, instead of brooding and ruminating on it, you can document it, as carefully as you can, in a journal or free-association format (written or with spoken audio tech). Setbacks and misfortune, ironically, often make great stories. Humans have a unique affinity for stories; some of the best books and movies originate from this mental hack.


You can learn to put a smile in your mind by merely considering the happiest moments of your life or those of your loved ones. This takes a few minutes, and you can make it one of the best meditations in your life. Choose a joyous specific moment and imagine it visually, then access what you were hearing and feeling as well to engage all five senses to deepen it enough and savor your joy.

You can also picture your loved one’s smile in your mind, as well as literally hold your own smile. An additional hack: Holding a smile actually tricks our brain into being even happier (even if you know this!).

5. Embody the “last time” frame.

The sobering truth is that there will be a “last time” you do everything. I mean everything. With this in mind, even the most unpleasant and mundane tasks, such as cleaning your bathroom, being stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or taking out the trash, can have a precious and poignant flavor to them. Slow down and enjoy them, at least a little.



Quit Playing Sport

What To Do and Say if You Child Wants to Quit Playing Sport

At one time or another and for a variety of reasons, most athletes think about quitting. Sometimes a decision to quit playing sport, comes as a shock to parents, but at other times the warning signs leading up to it are very clear.


What are the causes of dropping out of youth sports?

In general, the reasons fall into two categories. The first category involves a shift in interests, especially during adolescence. Other involvements, such as a job, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or recreational pursuits may leave little time for sports. In such cases, a youngster may simply choose to set other priorities.

The second category of reasons why kids quit involves negative sport experiences. Research has shown that the following reasons often underlie a decision to drop out:

  • Not getting enough playing time.
  • Poor relationships with coaches or teammates.
  • An overemphasis on winning that creates stress and reduces fun.
  • Over-organization, excessive repetition, and regimentation leading to boredom.
  • Excessive fear of failure, including frustration or failure to achieve personal or team goals.

What are some tips for resolving the problem?

1. Be proactive. The ideal approach is to prevent the dilemma from occurring. In a New York Times blog, Lisa Belkin recommended developing an anti-quitting plan as an integral part of signing up for a sport. In essence, she advocates forming a contract that includes the following conditions:

  • If you commit to a team, you have to complete the season.
  • If you want to quit because you’re being hurt, physically or emotionally, then that cancels out the above.

2. It’s very important to find out the reason(s) your child wants to quit. This requires open discussion to probe some ways to resolve the difficulties being experienced. In doing this, Catherine Holecko provided sound advice in herFamily Fitness blog. Specifically, she recommends choosing a time and place that’s comfortable to your child, and asking (with sensitivity) some of the following questions:

  • You seemed really interested when signing-up. What’s changed?
  • Do you remember the two conditions of the contract we made?
  • Is there something going on that you’d like to talk about?
  • Are you disappointed about your performance, or your team’s?
  • Is there something else you prefer to do instead?
  • Would you like to play the same sport, but on a different team?
  • How do you think your coach/teammates would feel if you quit the team?

3. If the youngster has decided that other activities are more important, his or her priorities should be respected. However, it’s wise to provide a reminder that a commitment has been made to the program and to teammates. In other words, athletes owe it to themselves and to others to honor commitments and to finish the season. This gives the youngster an opportunity to feel good about himself or herself by fulfilling the obligation through the remainder of the season—even if the activity itself is no longer pleasurable.

4. If appropriate, you may wish to take some active steps to correct the difficulties identified. This will likely involve speaking to the coach or a program administrator. In talking with your youngster, you should evaluate how intolerable the situation is to him or her and whether the problems can be worked out. In all but the most severe cases, you can point out that a commitment has been made, and you can encourage your youngster to finish the season.

5. If the problems are sufficiently severe, the decision to drop out may be in the best interests of your child. In this case, you would want to communicate to your child that although it’s important to live up to commitments, you understand that the principle is outweighed by the nature of the problems.

If the child does drop out, there may be other opportunities to play in a sport program that doesn’t have the negative factors that prompted the decision to quit.

Also it is important to understand that everybody may feel the same way about sport. Here’s a recommendation for a better understanding.


Hope or Prepare

Prepare For The Worst or Hope For The Best?

Is it better to approach life with great hope or a sense of doom?

A glass-half-full attitude is generally beneficial to your mental, physical, and emotional health, but stark realism is sometimes a smart tactic.

While every situation is unique, research offers some tips on when to brace for impact and when to stay upbeat. —Jill Coody Smits


After taking the Academic Tests, you wonder for weeks whether your score will be embarrassing or brag-worthy.

Expect the worst. Lowering expectations while awaiting test results can reduce disappointment at the big reveal, according to a University of Florida study–meaning you’re less likely to get upset (regardless of your score) than if you’d been counting on a 99th-percentile mark. Preparing for bad news helps in many moment-of-truth situations, such as hearing health outcomes, researcher Kate Sweeny adds.


You learn that your daughter’s fellow eighth-graders were caught drinking wine coolers and wonder if she’ll follow suit.

Expect the best. If you envision your teen swilling beer, you may create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Mothers who pass along low expectations raise kids who embody the party animal persona, Iowa State research shows. But children whose moms believe they’ll be temperate teens shun alcohol. Parents can relay their expectations explicitly or via behavior-shapers like setting a strict curfew.


A week after your honeymoon, your first big fight leaves you questioning whether you’ll make it to your Golden Anniversary.

Expect the best. Long-term love thrives on rose-colored glasses. Optimistic partners engage in “approach” strategies to problem-solving, employing cooperation and refraining from attacks, research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows. Less optimistic couples often engage in “avoidant” strategies (think: cold shoulder) that further strain the relationship.


You’ve nabbed the degree; now you’re applying for your first job.

Expect the best–realistically. Confident college grads are more successful job-seekers than pessimistic ones, unless they venture into fantasy, research notes. Whereas positive expectations (“I’m a strong candidate”) reflect past successes and acknowledge the value of hard work, fantasies (“I’ll be flooded with job offers!”) disregard attainability. Thinking you’re a workforce wunderkind can lead to laziness, NYU researcher Gabriele Oettingen explains.


You’re dying to beat your boss at the office tennis tournament next month.

Expect the worst, then the best. While training, imagine your boss is Boris Becker and focus on your weak service return. Self-doubt motivates you to practice harder and results in a stronger performance, according to a Michigan State study. But on match day, envision repeatedly crushing his serve. Confidence just prior to and during competition strongly correlates with winning.


Your doctor suggests a flu shot, but you hate needles.

Expect the worst. Hypochondria, a little unease goes a long way in preventive health behaviors. Worrying about breast cancer is a strong predictor of getting screened, and people get flu shots simply because they anticipate regretting not getting the vaccine, studies show. Overall, of course, optimism begets health, but if a kick in the butt leads to a shot in the arm, so be it.

Sport psychology

Sport psychology is Still a Second-Class Citizen in the Sports World.

Whenever I speak to athletes and coaches, I ask them how important the mind is to sport success. With few exceptions, the response is that the mind is as or more important than the physical and technical side of sports.

I am obviously biased given my work in sport psychology, so I won’t take a position on which I believe is more important. But I will say that the mind is an essential piece of the sport performance puzzle.

Consider the top-10 athletes, male or female, in any sport. Are they all gifted? Yes. Are they all in exceptional physical condition? Yes. Are they all technically sound? Yes. Do they all have the best equipment? Yes. So, on game day, what separates the best from those who are close, but can’t quite get to the top? All of these other factors being equal, it must be what goes on in their minds.

I will also add that, in the greater scheme of life, it wouldn’t be difficult to argue that the mental side of sport is vastly more important than physical fitness and technical prowess, at least for young athletes. Why? Because, realistically speaking, relatively few athletes will make to the top of their sport. But, all of the attitudes, mental skills, and life lessons that athletes learn from their sport, for example, motivation, confidence, focus, perseverance, resilience, the ability to handle pressure, the list goes on, will serve them well in all aspects of their lives when they enter adulthood.

Yet, when I ask these same athletes and coaches how much time and energy is devoted to mental preparation, they indicate not very much and certainly not as much as it deserves.

Herein lies my question: Why isn’t mental training treated the same as physical and technical training? To be sure, sport psychology does have a presence in most sports. Sport psychologists work with many professional athletes and teams, as well as Olympic and collegiate teams. And I and many other sport psychologists work with youth programs in many sports around the U.S. and throughout the world.

Yet, when compared to its physical and technical counterparts, sport psychology clearly has  second-class status. While all sports programs and teams at every level of competition have full-time technical and conditioning coaches, few have full-time sport psychologists.

Moreover, when sport psychology is offered to athletes, its presence is usually vastly different from the physical conditioning and technical regimens that athletes benefit from.

Let’s consider what makes physical conditioning and technical development effective and then compare it to the use of mental training in most sports settings today. Two key elements come to mind.

First, when athletes work out, they don’t just walk into the gym and do random strength or agility exercises. Instead, they engage in organized workouts based on a structured program that coaches believe will result in optimal physical preparedness for their sport.

Similarly, when athletes go onto the field, court, course, or hill, they don’t just play around and hope to improve. Rather, they follow a technical progression based on their level of development. In sum, both the physical and technical components of athletic development have an organized program comprised of a framework and process that guides athletes systematically toward their goals.

Second, athletes wouldn’t get more fit if they worked out every few weeks. And their sport skills wouldn’t improve if they only practiced once a month. What enables athletes to get stronger and perform better is that they engage in physical and technical training consistently. Day in and day out, week in and week out, and month in and month out, athletes regularly put time and effort into their conditioning and technical work.

Using these two criteria—a structured program with a clearly defined progression and consistency—it’s pretty obvious that mental side of sport isn’t getting the attention it is due. Yes, many athletes get some exposure to sport psychology either through contact with sport psychologists or directly from their coaches. But, based on my own experience and feedback I have gotten from athletes, coaches, and parents around the country, this exposure, for almost all U.S. athletes, lacks both a structured program and any consistency that is essential for maximizing its value to their development.

So, is there an immediate answer to my original question: Why isn’t mental training treated the same as physical and technical training in sports? I have a few theories.

First, though sport psychology has been a field of study for more than 100 years, it has not been  a traditional part of training for most sports. Old attitudes, habits, and methods die hard and new approaches to improving athletic performance are not easily accepted. Perhaps it will take a new generation of coaches who have been exposed to sport psychology as competitors and then in their coaches’ education for the tide to turn toward wider acceptance and use of sport psychology with athletes.

Second, the reality is that the best athletes in the world have done pretty darned well without formal mental training. They simply developed mental skills through their training and competitive experiences. In contrast, I don’t think there has ever been a successful athlete who didn’t have a rigorous conditioning or technical program (at least not in the last 40 years).

As a result, the need for structured mental training may not seem great. I would suggest, however, that for every successful athlete who develops mental toughness on their own, there are one or more who are equally talented and motivated to become successful, but need help in developing their mental capabilities.

Third, psychology lacks the concreteness of conditioning and technical training. You can readily see the areas in need of improvement physically and technically, for example, amount of weight lifted in the gym or technical problems revealed on video. The mental side of sport is not so easily seen, quantified, or measured. As a result, it’s harder to gauge where athletes are in different aspects of their mental preparation, what areas they need to work on, and any improvement that is made mentally.

Fourth, sport psychology can suffer from ‘guilt by association’ with the broader field of clinical psychology that still carries the stigma that only screwed-up people seek professional help. This perception, however inaccurate it is, can prevent athletes, coaches, and parents from seeing mental preparation for what it is, namely, an essential contributor to sports performance that must be developed proactively. This fear can also scare them away from getting sport psychology help when it is needed.

I predict that it will take some time before mental preparation receives the same attention as its physical and technical counterparts. But, as the stakes get higher and the competition gets tougher, from the development level to the world stage, athletes and coaches will look for every opportunity to gain the competitive edge that separates success from failure.

As the limits of physical conditioning and technique are reached, it will be both natural and necessary to leverage all that sport psychology has to offer athletes. Only then will sport psychology, at long last, stand as equal partners with physical conditioning and technical training as athletes strive to take advantage of every opportunity to achieve success in pursuit of their goals. I look forward to that day.