The Impostor in the Room

Until recently, I had never heard the phrase “Impostors Phenomenon” or “Impostors Syndrome”.

And now that I have, so much of my inner life makes more sense.  Imagine if…

No matter how successful you are, no matter what you’ve accomplished in life, you’re always haunted by this fear that it’s all due to luck, or timing, or other factors outside your control, and at any minute everyone will realize you don’t deserve that success and everything will suddenly fall apart.  So you worry, and fret, and panic about anything and everything which might give away the fact that you’re a fraud.

Nobody understands.  Of course you’ve earned your success, and you should be enjoying it!  Right?  RIGHT?  No, because you’re working so frantically to prove that you really are deserving that you can’t sit still.  You’re always doing something, working on something, striving for more, filling up every little second with some kind of accomplishment to eventually be truly good enough.

Over the years you’ve learned to accept compliments although they still make you queasy.  Making friends is hard because comparing yourself to others is a compulsion, and no matter who it is you always somehow fall short in your own eyes.  So you always feel alone, left out, like you don’t belong, even with people you’ve known for years.  Because everybody knows more, is more up on the news, the scoop, what’s going on and who’s doing what, and you’re always the last. person. to. know. anything.  

I can remember going through this as far back as highschool.  It affects everything in my life.  I keep thinking that one or two more training courses, or just another year of experience, and then I will finally feel like I am qualified to do the job I have been doing for oh, seven years now.   I compulsively collect and reread self-help books to improve myself, my life, to just get things to the point where it’s “better enough”…wherever that is.

To anyone on the outside, looking in, this would make no sense.  How can I feel so down on myself when all the evidence is to the contrary?  I’ve shared bits and pieces with people – never the whole, because until today I didn’t know there *was* a whole – and my concerns and worries get dismissed, minimized, not in a malicious or denigrating way, but with that loving “well aren’t you silly” that you would tell a five year old expressing worries about her self-worth.

So where does it go from here?  I don’t know.  I feel a bit better knowing that it’s not “just me”, it’s not all in my head, there are even other people (many, from the sounds of it!) who are suffering from the same thing.  Still trying to figure out how to “get over it.”  I’m sure there’s a self-help book for that somewhere.

One comment

  1. Sounds just like me, except I don’t read self-help books to improve myself; instead, I read novels to forget about my problems. Every once in a while I do think to myself: I’m really just a month or so away from being homeless; once people realize how easy it is to do what I do, it’s all over.

    Three things I’ve done to compensate. One: realize what’s easy for me really is hard for other people; when tradesmen come to my house, they fix in 2 seconds what baffled me for days; the same applies for me and you in our trades. Two: insure myself to the hilt! Disability, long term care, etc., etc. Three: make sure I never drop the ball professionally – always come through when it counts.

    I always remember a talk I had with my father and his father, in my father’s back yard. I think about this all the time. We were talking of the different problems get themselves into, and my grandfather said something like this: there’s always a way around any difficulty: think things through, trust yourself, and keep working.

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