“They don’t know the real me”
“They think I can do it but I can’t”
“They will find out that I’m not all that”
All those thoughts and feelings are examples of the imposter syndrome, aka, the imposter phenomenon or fraud syndrome. The imposter syndrome is a feeling of phoniness. You believe that you are a fraud because everyone thinks you are an intelligent high achiever but you “know” you are not. It is marked with persistent fear that you will be found out and then everyone will know you were pretending to be smart. The problem with this is that you think you are being humble and modest, but in reality you are just as brilliant as everyone deems you to be but you haven’t accepted that.
In order to downplay your brilliance you give external factors credit; you say things like “oh, I got lucky”; you try to make things look easy and discount the real value you played in achieving the goal. Your mind challenges you and forces you to seek permission and approval to shine. Your doubts question you and asks “who said you can do that?” and you wonder “why do I think I am good?” You may think you need to pursue additional credentials and qualifications to prove your worth or to attribute your knowledge.
Every time you get a weird feeling after you receive praise or a compliment, you are experiencing the imposter syndrome and every time you hide, shrink or run; it’s dominating your life. I can easily accept a compliment but I sometimes have an issue with flattery because it makes me question the motives. After my second maternity leave, I returned to work and there were five new hires who were eager to meet me. They told me that “we heard so much about me and couldn’t wait to meet you.” I realized that the flattery had nothing to do with the person giving an accolade, it was my own insecurity. I figured that I would have to live up to some expectation because someone else praised me and knew my real value. Why was it so hard to accept that? Why did I second guess myself?
Some women have been taught through culture, tradition and downright bad teaching that they should be modest, humble and soft spoken. As a result, any accomplishment or achievement is usually toned down. So when someone realizes your talent and genius, you begin to fear that you one day everyone will find out that you aren’t all they have made you out to be. It may even lead you to self-sabotage, you know what I mean, finding 25 reasons not to pursue your passion, take risks or to turn down that job before they find out that you are not that good. How many women have built empires, won Grammys, been the mastermind behind ideas, medical breakthroughs or inventions but still don’t think they are enough?
Where do we go from here?
Dominating the Imposter Syndrome
“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.” Marianne Williamson