The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with 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. — Wikipedia
Aahhhh, Imposter Syndrome. Some days, it’s familiar and comfortable, like an favourite old blanket luring me in for a stint on the couch. Other days, I step beyond its influence and keep forging ahead. I take some comfort from knowing I’m not alone in feeling this way. I had the privilege of hearing an award-winning author declare, during a keynote address, that he suffered from it. On the radio just last week, an interview with an accomplished jazz singer opened with a mash-up of some of her most notable songs from past decades. The host asked her, “What do you think, when you listen to those recordings?” I think he might have been expecting her to reminisce about the great times she’d had, the people she’d met, the places she’d performed. Instead, she laughed, a bit uncomfortably, and said, “I never listen to my work! I always think, ‘Oh, why did I do that there? I could have done so much better!'”
I owned up to my feelings of Imposter Syndrome during a concert last year. It got some laughs, but unfortunately, I hadn’t been making it up. While getting ready for that night, even after weeks of careful practice and preparation, I caught myself thinking, “Who do I think I am, anyway, putting on a concert of my own music??” This, in spite of the many experiences and efforts that had brought me to that moment. Who, indeed? Some months later, I came across an answer of sorts in a poem.
Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson
It is out light not our darkness that most frightens us.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.
So, when moments of Imposter Syndrome threaten to wrap themselves around me and slow me down, I remind myself, “Who am I not to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?” It makes me laugh to think of myself as brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous, because when I was growing up, it wasn’t polite to say such things about oneself. Who wants to be friends with someone who sounds conceited? I must have internalized that it wasn’t okay to think such things, either. So, calling myself brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous definitely doesn’t make me 100% confident that I am fully any of those things on any given day, but even if I’m not those things, I still have something to offer. So, why hide it away?
Ask yourself this question… If you are letting Imposter Syndrome hold you back, what is the world missing out on?