Ok, I admit it. I’d never heard of impostor syndrome until now. Until I got called on it by my cousin. We were at her store that sells natural beauty products. She built LesCoconuts from scratch. Literally, concocting, from scratch, an all natural coconut-oil based deodorant. From there a thriving online business and a bricks and mortar store. And she gets to be founder and CEO. All very cool and very well deserved.
Talk drifted to what I like to do. I told her I write and that I’m working on a novel. It’s at the editing stage. She said that was great. Was I going to publish soon? “Don’t know, maybe, it might not really be anything.” I faltered, broke eye-contact, started tracing little circles with the toe of my shoe. The worst is I saw myself doing it. My voice became faint (I’m not a loud talker to start). I lost air, like a balloon. Instead of blowing up bigger, I shriveled and dropped into a corner. Shriveling is never good. Human, vegetable, balloon, it doesn’t matter. You get small and wrinkly, and that’s never attractive.
“I hear self confidence issues. Sounds like impostor syndrome. It’s common in women.”
What? What’s that? I mean, I could guess from the name. It’s when you don’t think you’re the real thing. In other words, an amateur at whatever it is you’re doing, a fake who will eventually be unmasked. On the other hand, was this an actual thing or the latest buzzword from the social media ‘live you best life’ cohort? And could it really apply to me? Because I consider myself self aware.
Is Impostor Syndrome really…well… a syndrome?
I went home and googled. Not only is it real, it’s been around a long time. Psychologists Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance coined the term in the 1970s. Furthermore, judging from all the material online, I wonder how I could have missed it. It has its own site, theimpostorsyndrome.com, the brainchild of Dr.Valerie Young, whose research, talks, blog and book discuss how even the brightest, most talented people struggle with feelings of self-doubt.
In short, Impostor Syndrome is when you credit everyone and everything else with your successes. Therefore you worry about being ‘found out’ because your achievements have nothing to do with your talent or hard work. It’s all luck or and sooner or later everyone is going to figure it out.
In addition, women suffer more from impostor syndrome than men. Perhaps because we’re taught to be modest and not self-promote. Don’t toot your own horn, and all that. Impostor syndrome is not being modest. It’s giving yourself your due, objectively recognizing what you’ve achieved, and not constantly finding excuses to remove yourself from the success equation. “It wasn’t me, it was the team.” “I was lucky.” “There wasn’t too much competition.”
It affects mindset
Just knowing this is a thing was a big eye opener. Simply recognizing that insidious voice of self-doubt parading as objective reality took away its power and allowed a new mindset to replace it. I remembered so many situations where I thought I was being objective about my abilities when in fact I was self-sabotaging. Above all, I felt as if I’d overcome a big hurdle to manifesting. I’d got rid of a huge impediment. If we manifest what we think, imagine thinking you’re incompetent or an imitator? That sooner or later you’re going to fail because it’s all by chance and your luck is going to run out? Being a syndrome means it’ll creep back up, somewhere, but now I’ll be on the lookout. That alone is a relief.
Photo by Ingeborg Gärtner-Grein on Unsplash
How interesting to hear that this syndrome is actually documented…… I join you amongst the afflicted!!!!! But it isn’t always manifesting, thank God… I think that Roman Catholic upbringing in the 1960’s did a lot of the damage… “Get ‘em when they’re young”
Still I think that the syndromes of my generation are less than the ill-ease that the system teaches today’s young…. like pushing questions like gender definitions on 8 year olds…
I too was surprised that it was defined by psychologists. And it does tie in with a lot of ideas around ‘modesty’ ‘humility’. I get the socio-religious norms you’re referring to: don’t stand out from the herd, conform (sociology major here!). Humility is a wonderful virtue, but we all should take credit for what we accomplish.
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