Wiki describes Imposter Syndrome like this:
“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.”
“Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.”
Impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achievers, but it is said that 70% of us will experience it at some point in our lives, so it is more common than first thought. It is true though that those who are more brilliant tend to suffer from it more extremely.
I can only speak for myself, but imposter syndrome is something I have encountered at every step of my life. In every job I have ever had I have never been able to shake the feeling that they are going to rumble me, and that I will be fired for not being good enough. That one day someone will request a meeting with me and say “You shouldn’t be here.” Every time that I receive praise on how well I am doing I smile awkwardly and try to give them an excuse as to why I “appear” to be doing so well.
When I first started my therapy practice it plagued me more than ever. I was convinced that one day a client would look across at me and say, “Who the hell do you think you are, trying to help me with my problems? You are a liar and you are going to jail for being a fraud!”
That was my honest thought on the subject. I seriously believed that I was going to get into trouble for setting up my business, despite being fully qualified, and achieving high results on all my studies, because I felt like a total fraud. It is a feeling that I still haven’t quite shifted to this day, but one that I manage a lot better.
If we take my therapy practice for an example (I even have trouble typing the words and calling it that because a little voice in the back of my head says “it’s not really though is it? It’s not a real one is it so you can’t call it that.”) I actually found that my attitude was starting to sabotage sessions. It was minute, almost imperceptible little things, but I noticed. My lack of confidence in myself was communicating to certain clients, who I could see starting to shift in sessions, no doubt unconsciously picking up on this and implanting that doubt in their own minds. I realised that if I wasn’t careful and didn’t deal with this issue, I could turn my irrational thought into a truth. I wouldn’t be good enough to do my job, and it wouldn’t be through lack of knowledge or training, or not being able to do the job well, but it would be through letting my own mental processes interfere with the work that I was supposed to be doing. I had to do something about it, but what is there to do?
I began trying to talk to myself and motivate myself before sessions. I began “rehearsing” sessions with a non-existent client. I re-read study materials (that I knew like the back of my hand) and did old exercises from modules. I even sometimes would ask a client to close their eyes to do an exercise because their inability to watch me doing what I was doing helped me relax. I began going to any little course, seminar etc to make myself feel as though I was doing something, reigniting and maintaining my frame of mind. It helped, and little by little I didn’t need to do quite so much to feel more at ease. I still go on courses and to seminars etc as I feel that really helps to keep my mind keyed in to what I am doing and boosts my confidence.
I am really good at what I do, and always have been. It was only my own mind I had to prove that to.
I know that it won’t be the last time I encounter this problem, and I know that I am not the only one who does. I think thoughts like these can rot away at the base of your brain, undermining everything you do and ruining your chance to be happier and perhaps to excel. I know I have been afraid in the past of trying something, of pushing myself, because I thought I would fail because I wasn’t good enough. But through trying different things I have found ways that help me, and if more of us spoke about these things, maybe they wouldn’t knaw away at us, and maybe more people could feel happier.