Imposter Syndrome

Clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes identified and named this phenomenon 1978.   They defined imposter syndrome as a “condition of feeling anxious and not experiencing success internally, despite being high-performing in external, objective ways [which can] often result [in feelings of] feeling like “a fraud” or “a phony” and doubting their abilities”.1


It’s also a self-inflicted condition, i.e., “cognitive distortion” that I struggle with mightily.  I experience all of the things too!  Symptoms like self-doubt, undervaluing my contributions, attributing any successes to external factors, sabotaging my success out of fear of failure, setting unrealistic expectations (Whew!  Big one here!), continuous fear of not living up to expectations, and burnout.


Therefore, I constantly overachieve to feel deserving of the responsibility and expectations others have of me, that I have of myself, to feel like I’ve earned what I have, not lucked into it.  At fifty four, I know now some of it is nature, some nurture, and some internal wiring.


And the nature was exacerbated by military service.  Type As who strive and overcome, who make big impacts, expected to yolo it to produce Herculean results, of which you don’t talk about.


And that’s how I’ve learned how to channel it..


Get into a new position or career in which I’m uncomfortable, even though I busted my tail to earn it, and then knowledge, ability, and skills up as fast as I can to a degree that none of my peers and some of my managers don’t achieve, so that by the time they come to chat about having to let me go because I’m not who I said I was and I’m not doing what I told them I was capable of, they never come, because I’ve exceeded expectations.


Which I don’t value fairly, because I achieved out of luck, surely not my contributions, and on and on.


See, self-inflicted.


And really, from a different perspective, simply “growth”.


So yes, I “suffer” from it, but I’ve re-framed it positively, it’s growth, which takes a growth mindset, curiosity, introspection, risk, preparation, and a bit of luck.  It’s all good.  Look yours in the mirror too, embrace it, and let’s go win rings!



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