Imposter syndrome

imposter syndrome

 

A lot of people feel they are a fraud. Even Maya Anjelou felt that way sometimes. Members of traditionally underrepresented groups tend to feel this more. There are lots of motivational talks, books and videos that can help you if you suffer from this.

One aspect that interests me is this: in every thought there is at least a tiny piece of truth. I’m not saying I am an imposter, but I respect myself too much to poopoo this feeling completely when it does happen.

When I sense this thought creeping up on me, I’ve learned to ask myself a few questions, like “What legitimate reason might there be?”, “Am I afraid of doing something I’ve judged I ‘should’ already know, but is new to me?”, or “Are my personal expectations set too high?”.

  • Legitimate reason: perhaps there is something I don’t know and need to learn, or find someone else who does know this thing and get them on board. Nobody knows everything, not even long-time experts.
  • Fear of doing something new: As I get older, I also get more confident in what I’ve been doing for a while. Then something new comes along, and I’m a novice again. Will I get stuck, or make a mistake? Possibly, but if I have a strategy in place that covers this, I’ll be fine.
  • High expectations: This is probably the toughest one for me, because I do have high expectations for myself. A realistic assessment will help me adjust my expectations to something more attainable.

Traditionally, women feel this syndrome much more keenly than men. It’s been trained into us. If we’re honest, though, we’ll be able to exchange this undermining feeling for something more genuine and fitting. Pride in our own accomplishments, for instance.

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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

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