Today is February 26 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you suffer from the impostor syndrome? When you look around the room you see professionals who have succeeded largely because of their talents and dedication.
You, on the other hand, have got where you are thanks to a mix of luck and the extra effort that was needed to compensate for your lack of true giftedness. This harsh assessment stems from a crisis of self-doubt that psychologists call the Imposter Phenomenon. Quite likely you live in professional fear. Fear that one of these days, you are going to be exposed. You may believe the mirage of serendipitous and barely-made-it achievements that is your career will one day be lifted, revealing to your peers and mentors the shameful truth – you flunked it.
The imposter phenomenon was first described in the 1970s by clinical psychologists working at a women’s college, after they noticed that a large proportion of the students felt nervous of their academic success and were worried of having their true capabilities exposed. Since then it’s become apparent that men and women in all walks of life experience imposter feelings: in fact, one estimate suggests that around 70 percent of us will go through a period of these self-doubts at least once in our lives.
Tina Fey made a poignant observation on it: “Ah, the impostor syndrome!? The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania, and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud. Seriously, I’ve just realized that almost everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel too bad about it.”
Christopher Reeve once wrote “We can either watch life from the sidelines, or actively participate. Either we let self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy prevent us from realizing our potential, or embrace the fact that when we turn our attention away from ourselves, our potential is limitless.”
How often do you suffer from the impostor syndrome?