Here’s what happens to me: I have a perfectly lovely chat with someone I like very much. There may be laughter and understanding.
Then I hear something. It’s not my friend, it’s another voice. That voice says things like ‘she’s only saying that to be polite’ or ‘she doesn’t really think that it’s just you’re so desperate she has no choice’. The voice becomes louder and shriller until I can’t hear the lovely friend so I make my excuses and leave to go somewhere quiet as quickly as I can.
Lately, I realised that the voice belongs to – well, actually, it doesn’t matter – it’s just that what she says is exactly what we mean by imposter syndrome. I used to think it was a work thing – like not being aware that everyone else is winging it in the office too… But, it’s much more than that.
So, last week, I sat down to write about imposter syndrome with a few vague scraps in my head that I hoped would tie together into a blog post. Then, I didn’t because I thought, that I’d be better bunging up some photos from my phone and a few lines by way of a caption because at least you’d know I was there…
After all, who is interested in my thoughts when there are better informed, more educated, cleverer thinkers, well, everywhere? Doesn’t matter though. If they’re not interested they can move right along. That’s the (one of part of the) joy of the blog.
Then I sidetracked myself with a mighty Google. I could take other people’s wisdom and repackage it – I’ve made a living out of that, haven’t I? But no…
My name is Ellen and here’s what I’ve learned from recurrent bouts of imposter syndrome.
- It isn’t a work thing… it’s an everything thing
- You can have it even if you’re not a frustrated high-flyer (imposter imposter syndrome!)
- It leads you to overcompensate by working harder/longer than anyone else.
- ‘To err is human’… unless it happens to me, in which case, it’s a huge source of shame.
- Your achievements become easily forgotten behind towering piles of failure – or at least that’s the way it seems.
- The validation double-bind – this is probably the trickiest element. You rely on other people’s opinions to validate your success while simultaneously distrusting all positive feedback.
Obviously, the next logical step would be to post a neat list of cures and treatments, however, I’m not going to. Not least because I don’t have any answers. Instead, I’ll start with what I know works for most things that are difficult and troublesome… I’ll talk about it on my blog and hope for some inspiration.
Anyone else got this and what do you do about it?
Anne Brown says
This is so absolutely me – I’ve always felt a failure at more or less everything, despite actually achieving a good job, promotion, trust, etc. I just think I’m there by happenstance, not by ability. I enjoy it when someone says I’ve done something well, but I don’t believe them. I also deal with it by working longer and harder and constantly trying to prove myself. It’s been like this all my life and although still way past my retirement date I am still working – and still trying to prove I am good at something! Thank you for putting it into words.