I’ve been hearing this phrase dropped around quite a bit lately: Imposter Syndrome. I had a general idea of what is meant, and assumed I probably fell under the umbrella somewhere. I kept trying to avoid it, but as we know, what the mind tries to ignore will fester and start to eat you alive. It took me probably a year and a half of hearing that phrase, thinking about looking it up, and then gently putting it on my “Things to Eventually Get To” list in my brain – AKA the shit that’s never gonna fucking get done.
Strangely though, I kept being pulled back to that phrase. So recently, I finally sat down to look it up and my search results ultimately led to Wikipedia – of course. Which, for anyone who thinks that Wikipedia is just garbage, you are mostly right…. But! Sometimes you can go to the references area and strike gold. I found a few peer reviewed sources (I was shocked too!)
I have never felt good enough to be able to take credit for my small achievements. I always attributed any kind of small success to luck. “Geeze, I was lucky that xyz happened today that I could xyz!” It feels fake to call myself a researcher because I am not in a PhD program. It feels fake to call myself a writer because I don’t have any credentials to be considered one; as far as I’m concerned it’s just a creative outlet, something I have to do for school, and something I enjoy. I don’t even feel like my writing is even that great, even though I’ve been told by others that they enjoy my writing. I think, “They’re just being kind; they don’t actually think that.”
“Women who experience the impostor phenomenon maintain a strong belief that they are not intelligent; in fact, they are convinced that they have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” (P. R. CLANCE & S. A. IMES) Great women like Maya Angelou, Brene Brown, Tina Fey, and even Tom Hanks have all admitted to having issues with imposter syndrome.
In fact, women who exhibit the impostor phenomenon do not fall into any one diagnostic category. The clinical symptoms most frequently reported are generalized anxiety, lack of self-confidence, depression, and frustration related to inability to meet self-imposed standards of achievement (P. R. CLANCE & S. A. IMES).” When I was reading through the list of characteristics of imposter phenomenon and realizing that my thoughts, attitude, and personality checks off all of the boxes. It was incredibly eye-opening for me to finally see it with my own eyes, and for someone to confirm what I’d always been feeling was incredibly liberating. For me, though, it was also kind of devastating.
I grieved for the girl and the young woman who always out of place every where I went. I always felt like my friends would eventually realize how annoying I was and not want to be my friend anymore. At work, if I had a shitty day with sales, I would feel like shit; but if I had a good day at work I would think that I was just lucky, even when clients that I built up came to see me, I was still feeling lucky that they had come in that day. It was such a frustrating feeling of never being able to celebrate my little wins.
So as it turns out, according to Clance and Imes from Georgia State University, there are 2 types of imposter syndrome: 1) someone who had a sibling that was deemed the smarter, more intelligent child; or 2) someone who was deemed the smarter, more intelligent child by their parents.
For me, I fall under the second type, and according to Clance and Imes, the family conveys to the child that they are superior in every way—intellect, personality, appearance, talents. In the parents’ eyes, there is nothing that they can’t do if they want to. She is told how smart they were during infancy and childhood, such as learning to talk and read early or counting earlier than other children. In the family members’ eyes, they are perfect (P. R. CLANCE & S. A. IMES).
I was that child. From an early age, I remember being told how smart and/or how pretty I was. According to my mother, she was constantly stopped and ogled by people. She tried to get me to be the next Gerber baby, and she put me in a couple of beauty pageants as a kid, but stopped when she realized, thankfully, that she didn’t want to turn into a pageant mom. And to add a cherry on the top, I was an only child for 8 years, so all the attention was on me.
According to Clance and Langford, imposter syndrome is correlated with anxiety, and rank high on the neuroticism and perfectionism personality score (SAKULKU, ANDALEXANDER 2011). Guess who tests high on that score: THIS GIRL. Don’t be jealous though; it’s the worst high-test score ever! Thanks mom and dad!
But seriously, if you recognize something in yourself that sounds like what I have just described, there is help for it. Therapy is a great place to start! For this type of condition, it’s completely internalized, and so there are step that can be taken to externalize the pain. It is proposed that therapy comprised of learn, “a warm acceptance of all aspects of the person, an empathic understanding of the person’s internal world, and an attitude in the therapist of genuineness and emotional honesty.”
So thank you for reading; as always, I am grateful for your time. If you’d like me to do a more in-depth piece on Imposter Syndrome, please feel free to send a message or leave a comment down below.
If you like what you see, please feel free to subscribe. I am trying to put out 1-2 entries a week, and there is much more to come!
Thank you again so much!