The dictionary definition of Imposter Syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
So, just to be clear, this isn’t about being afraid to do stuff due to self-doubt, or putting things off thinking you’re not good enough – no, this is when you are doing stuff, when you are being successful, and yet still you’re worrying that you’ll be found out. That somehow your success has been down to dumb luck and you’ll be shown to be a charlatan, rather than someone who has worked hard and deserves their success. Crazy, right?
Yes, it is crazy, but it’s remarkably prevalent. Something I use to tell that annoying little inner voice to get lost, is the knowledge that some truly remarkable people also suffer from Imposter Syndrome.
My particular favourite is a little story about two rather famous blokes called Neil. Neil Gaiman – successful author – told of this gathering he attended many years ago now. He described it as a gathering of the great and the good – artists, scientists, writers, discoverers of things – where he was absolutely convinced they’d soon realise he didn’t qualify to be there.
Then one night, while standing at the back of the room, he began chatting to someone he described as “a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman, who shared his first name”. That gentleman said to him “I look at all these people and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.” Mr Gaiman’s response? “But you were the first man on the moon, I think that counts for something.”
You see, that nice, polite, elderly gentleman was Neil Armstrong. In a world where even the first man to walk on the moon feels like an Imposter, I feel in good company.
What do you think about Imposter Syndrome? Do you have any theories about why people suffer from it? If you suffer with Imposter Syndrome, do you have a role model to remind yourself you’re doing just fine?
© Debra Carey, 2022