In the past week I have discussed the term imposter syndrome on three separate occasions; I haven’t actually been the focus of the discussion although I am sure I am equally susceptible to the phenomenon.
Well, it is self-evident what it’s about; imposter – suggesting that someone or something is pretending to be who or what they aren’t and, syndrome, that this is in some way a pathology, i.e. the self-belief in an individual’s lack of credibility is wrong/diseased/erroneous.
You could call it self-doubt.
Everyone, or at least anyone bearable has some level of self-doubt.
Whether they have won a Nobel Prize, finished washing the dishes or changed a nappy, it is inherent in the human condition that we will imagine ourselves to have achieved a goal or arrived at a result through less than consistently transparent or reproducible means.
This leads me to think about relativity.
I have stopped saying it (mostly), although I very often used to say something like, ‘I can’t do maths,’ or ‘I don’t understand numbers,’ with the intended message being that I am not a natural mathematician although when it comes down to it I can count and I can add-up bills and accounts and so on.
It is a relative thing.
I do do empathic, person-centred; that is my forte, I don’t have to try, I don’t find that working in this way is tiring, indeed, it is in many ways self-sustaining – I get such a buzz out of connecting with others this way I could probably keep chugging along indefinitely – like a perpetual motion machine, whereas with numbers (chess is another example), or perhaps when I inhabit an extravert role, my batteries drain and unless there is some place for me to escape (bed/isolation/book) I will crash.
So, I think the imposter things has elements of this although there is more.
I personally hate talking about any successes I have achieved; others don’t seem to have a problem. I suspect this relates in some way to ego – whether big or small.
I was talking with a colleague this week about awards – ‘The year’s finest’ or whatever – awarded to schools, wines, sweets, budget supermarkets and anything else you might care to consider.
How much of this has to do with entering the selection process; having the capacity to enter the race automatically raises your chances of winning; if you are too busy creating the best chocolate cake ever, will you have the time or even energy left over to fill-out application forms that ask for 1000 word descriptors of where you shine and where you don’t.
There you have it… I am the world’s best X, I won the award for most accomplished Y.
I could ride the wave of success, for that year and maintain the momentum as far and as long as possible or I could think more broadly, consider that perhaps this is just a step in the right direction.
Would it help or address self-doubt and collapse into the imposter scenario?
Is the syndrome harmful? Well, probably if it keeps you awake at night worrying, or sends you into a downward spiral of second-guessing and doubt.
Are awards harmful? Probably not unless you start to believe your own press and the publicity and actually see that you are somehow elevated; evolution doesn’t tend to stand still and what was once the best, the greatest, the most… whatever, is soon superseded, overtaken by youth, innovation or necessity.
I think therefore I am.
I pretend therefore I am, sort of, or, at least I might become.
Once I was.
One day I will be.
Most things are finite and eventually end; others go on forever.
PS featured image is not intentionally representative of my brother.