Imposter syndrome

You may have heard about imposter syndrome … the feeling you are going to be found out as the fraud you believe yourself to be any minute now, losing whatever you have built in the process, including your credibility …

Denying my own creativity

Some people are never ever confronted with it, while others really suffer from it. I know it occasionally haunts me. The first time I remember being confronted with it was, as far as I remember, when I was in 9th or 10th grade. Let me set the stage for you:

We had to critique a song for an English assignment. I remember choosing “Scarborough Fair” by Simon and Garfunkel, a hauntingly beautiful song with deep roots in the Middle Ages. And while I did the research – remember, this is a time before the Internet, where doing the research did not merely mean “Look it up in Google” – most of the interpretation and critique was original work. Judging by the reaction of the teacher – as I remember it – it was pretty good. Which makes it sad to realise I was so afraid of judgment, of being found out as a fraud who was just making it up as I went along, that I attributed the main body of the work – my own – as someone else’s. I was so afraid of not being considered good enough that I was afraid to take the credit for my own work. I denied my own creativity. Go figure.

Reflecting about imposter syndrome

I’ve been thinking a lot about imposter syndrome lately, because I’ve been confronted with some of its trapping in the past months. And the reflection has been quite interesting and actually helped me a lot in putting it in its rightful place.

To what do you compare your performance?

Imposter syndrome occurs when your unit of measurement of personal worth or relevance lies outside of you instead of within yourself. When you believe the judgment of others about you is more important than your own. And while others’ performance may be a yardstick to calibrate your own current state and direction to evolve in, the measurement of progress should only be as compared to your own initial position. If you want to talk about competition – and you really should not, because the end results isn’t even that relevant – the only competition that counts is the one against yourself.

Growth is all about the journey, less about the outcome

Imposter syndrome also negates a second, very important aspect of growth we often fail to recognise: growth isn’t really about the outcome but mainly, ideally solely about the journey and the evolution you go through. Adventures, experiences are never to be had at the finish but on the road to wherever you are going. So don’t forget to look around and slow down or even stop on occasion to take in the landscape. When was the last time you did that? Translating your learning experience, your journey into a mere metric KPI is really being blind for everything the experience can bring you. And it is always much more than just a result.

A willingness to travel

Fundamentally, the only person you can fool when you are suffering from imposter syndrome, as I still do from time to time, is yourself, by ignoring and negating the growth that comes from an experience, a journey. All you really need to bring to the table is a willingness to travel and an open mind. If you have that, take ownership of your journey and you can never be an imposter.