I made a post about this a year ago because this is something I struggle with a lot and it was so helpful when I found this term to put a name to a feeling/ experience. So I thought it might be interesting to an update one year later.

So what’s the definition of ‘imposter syndrome’?

From good old Wikipedia:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenonimpostorismfraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or interpret it as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be. Impostor syndrome also occurs in normal human-to-human relationships. Based on this syndrome, continuing doubts about people and individual defense mechanisms are considered difficult to achieve healthy relationships. While early research focused on the prevalence among high-achieving women, impostor syndrome has been recognized to affect both men and women equally

From an article in The Harvard Business Review:

Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. They seem unable to internalize their accomplishments, however successful they are in their field. High achieving, highly successful people often suffer, so imposter syndrome doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women and among academics.

So, let’s do some reflecting:

Last year I decided to go with a ‘fake it until you make it’ philosophy.

In the workplace, I decided to pretend I was confident. Pretend I deserved what I had earned. Pretend I knew what I was doing. Pretend that I deserved respect for what I do. Actively trying to recognise where and why a task was making me panic and confront why the fuck I am doing that to myself. It’s been a whole lot of arguing with myself internally but absolutely refusing to back down, to say I can’t or won’t do something.

The bizarre part? As soon as I started acting like I was calm, with confidence in what I was doing, people soon started treating me like it, or, I stopped seeing judgment that simply was not there in the first place. When I started actively taking on things I was perfectly capable of doing the whole God damn time, I was surprised to find they mostly went well and because I knew I tried my hardest, the things that didn’t weren’t as crushing. I am lucky in that I work in fairly supportive work environment, where I was quite safe to stretch out a bit without the blame being laid totally at my feet if it didn’t work out.

And you know what? All this stuff going so well (through an extremely tough period in my personal life) has made me so mad. Mad at the time I wasted not believing in my capabilities. Mad at previous workplaces that fostered an environment that caused these insecurities. Mad at all the time I spent feel shitty when I didn’t need to. It was unnecessary. The whole time it was not needed, it was hindering me instead protecting me from falling on my face as I thought it did.

Outside of work, I started a podcast with one of my closest friends. In the beginning I thought ‘who am I to believe people will want sit there and listen to me talk’, ‘who am I to sit there offering opinions, like people care’. But I did it anyway. And they did care. It’s one of the few things I have ever done that I am unashamedly proud of and I get to spend my time talking about books with my friend, to think I could have missed out on that is maddening.

I began to even treat the writing I did on my own blog like I didn’t need to justify it, or feel self conscious, or feel once again ‘who I am to think people give a shit about things I have to say?’. And then they did? You do, as the person reading this, it absolutely baffles me that you’ve come here to read this.

Later, it decided to start sharing my story that I have been writing and actually just even being able to talk about it with friends and family. It’s made writing it so much more enjoyable now that I’m excited to share it (one day) with people.

By no means I am over the whole imposter syndrome thing, it turns out that I am not, by nature, a confident person and learning confidence takes time, arguing with that negative voice takes time. But honestly? Faking it works. Because over time the knee jerk reaction of ‘I cannot do this’ gets redirected, like you can almost trick your own brain into believing you are what you’ve been portraying. It’s been bloody hard and stressful, especially in the professional setting because that really could have blown up in my face.

Now I’m just mad about all that energy and time I spent feeling like a fraud, doubting myself and living in constant fear of being ‘found out’. So, if you relate to anything I’ve talked about, I can’t promise that how I’ve worked on it will help you because it mostly relied on my sheer innate stubbornness. But I can promise that, if you are ready, it’s much nicer when you start to get past this feeling, so it’s worth the effort.

if you’ve stuck this one out to the end, thank you! I hope this helped? Or made you feel less alone?