Are you an Impostor?

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A while back I was reading my email and came across someone looking for women suffering from low self-esteem and imposter syndrome, imposter syndrome… what’s that? Reading that, I immediately thought of the words of Chris Rock, and I paraphrase, “Everyone is trying to diagnose you and then sell you something to fix it….‘You ever go to sleep and wake up?’ Yes, that’s me, I have that!”

But as I read further about imposter syndrome I discovered it is an actual diagnosis mostly given to successful women. Say word? Despite the success I’ve been blessed with sometimes I feel like I faked it; like this isn’t my life and I’m on the outside looking in. I thought it was just me. So I went to my research assistant ‘Google’ and came back with 342,000 results. Who knew?! I came to find out that a lot of very successful women have felt the same way. There are high achieving celebrity impostor syndrome sufferers including Tina Fey, Maya Angelou and Sheryl Sandberg, who have all openly admitted to feeling like an impostor at some point during their careers. For more insight I looked up the definition on Wikipedia:

1. The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an officially recognized psychological disorder, and is not among the conditions described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but it has been the subject of numerous books and articles by psychologists and educators. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.

2. 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.

I don’t feel I’ve deceived anyone. I know I put in work; staying up late nights working on projects, reading books, taking classes, communicating with production and sales teams, etc. But, I have moments when I look around and ask myself how did I get here? Why are people asking me questions like I know what I’m doing? When, I come to my senses and blurt out a response, I realize that people come to me because I do have answers. I’ve learned over time in those moments of anxiety, to thank Allah (God) for all of my blessing and accomplishments, take a deep breath and be present. Focus on the moment at hand and deal with it. And it’s worked!

If you want to delve deeper into what’s behind the ‘feeling’ of imposter syndrome I found a book from Dr. Valerie Young, author of ‘The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women’ that explains it further. It was a very insightful book. As she says:

“Being bold is not about being right, being perfect, or knowing it all. Rather it is about marshaling resources, information and people. It involves seeing problems as opportunities, occasionally flying by the seat of your pants, and ultimately being willing to fall flat on your face and know you will survive.”

As a recovering perfectionist, I’m learning that sometimes I won’t get everything right, but I have to move forward anyway otherwise nothing will ever get done. Waiting for things to be perfect before taking action, or speaking up usually keeps me in the same position. Here is a quote from Marianne Williamson that I find inspiring when I am feeling this way:

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, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.

Have you ever felt like an impostor? I would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

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