Imposter’s Syndrome is a real thing.

8 May

I didn’t know Imposter’s Syndrome (IS) existed until a conversation I had after a breakdown. I had literally spent half an hour bawling to my mother after she came smiling into my room, inquiring about the apartment I called her about earlier. I was unintelligible really. I think I just squeaked most of the words.

She sat their uncomfortably as I brushed off every consolation, looking at me as if I was a crazy person.

“You are doing fine, you are doing great at your job!”
“No, I’m not! You haven’t even seen me. I can’t do half of the things they’re asking me to do!”
“Yes, you can!”
“I CAN’T!”

I was brat-like and despairing. I was ugly. It was stupid to go apartment hunting when there was no way in hell these people were going to let me keep this job. I was not the one delusional about my abilities, my bosses were.
The Imposters. There are masses walking around this earth feeling like absolute shams and, apparently, a majority of these folks are women. In a 1978 study, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, from Georgia State University, first used the term to describe a group of 150 highly successful, professional women who believed that everything they had achieved was by pure luck.“Despite accolades, rank, and salary, these women felt like phonies.  They didn’t believe in their own accomplishments; they felt they were scamming everyone about their skills.” It didn’t matter what field they were in, all of these women had a common conviction. I am not who they think I am and they are going to find out one day.

Imposter’s Syndrome, that insidious bastard, strikes  intelligent, competent people, resulting in a chronic self-doubt about ability. Instead of feeling satisfaction, these folks feel like they are bolstering up a person that doesn’t exist, someone who’s competent, someone who’s smart, someone who can guide and lead others to their paths to triumph as well.  Symptoms:

  • You secretly worry that others are going to find out you’re not as smart as they seem to think you are.
  • The slightest bit of criticism is more crushing to you than it is for others because it is a sign of your ineptitude.
  • For fear of shoddy results, you procrastinate or shy away from challenges.
  • You chalk up present successes to flukes that will surely not be so successful next time.
  • When people honor or compliment you, you discount them as unable to judge you accurately.

For the imposter, it’s never what they do. Social pscyhologists call this “locus of control“. ISers feel that events happen to them (exernal locus), they don’t make things happen for themselves (internal locus), and that’s just the way things are. The discrepancy is that colleagues, friends, and family members assure them they must be doing something awesome to be where they are, resulting in feelings of fraudulence. Why do people keep SAYING I’m good at things?!

It’s crippling for women in tons of other ways.  IS keeps them from negotiating higher wages, seeking promotions, asking for equality in their personal relationships. They just don’t feel they deserve it. You’d think they’d spend more time feeling grateful (to fortune or to God) but are they busy courting anxiety instead.

This was me. I was drowning. So I called out for help. I called Joel.


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