I have just learned that my fear of “being found out” and letting the world know that my knowledge, skills, and abilities are not as good as others seem to believe has a name. Imposter Syndrome.
I read that most people, men and women, struggle with this issue to some degree. As sad as it may seem, I feel a little better knowing this. More important, I walked away from today’s lesson with a sense of calm and contentment because I obtained information that will help me cope. For this, I am thankful. I do love accidental information.
Throughout my schooling and my professional career, I have always felt like a fraud. Not always at the most extreme but the feeling is always there. I have felt that my GPA, completed tasks, positive feedback, and even my degrees are overinflating my true capabilities. I continue to perform at a high-level because that is my personality. Yes, I also have perfectionist tendencies. However, at the end of the day, I always question, “Did I really do well?” “Someone is going to find something wrong with my work.” “Everyone is going to figure out that I am on the lower rung of the ladder.”
To give you a better idea, In 2010, I completed my dissertation and received my PhD. To date, I have NEVER read my dissertation from start to finish because I have a genuine fear that I am going to find a mistake. Every single time that I have started to read it, I literally begin to feel as though I cannot breathe and I put it away.
Another example is that during my graduate studies, I consistently received high marks on required writing assignments from one of my professors. I thought, this guy is incompetent. Finally, I could not take it anymore and I sent him an email stressing my concern that he was not doing his job but simply giving high grades as long as the assignment was submitted on time. Well, as you might imagine, his response centered around, “If you think that I am not doing my job, you are free to drop my class.” So, I decided, maybe I should read one of my papers. Sitting on my front porch, I was about a page in and I found myself thinking, “This paper is really good.” I wrote this??? ” I apologized to the professor. What I can do and what my internal self tells me are two very different things and often, the internal rules. These experiences have not quieted my internal Imposter voice.
I think what makes my Imposter voice so strong is that when I look around my professional world, I do not see another person who looks like me, acts like me, or truly understands who I am. Perhaps, I do not feel that I truly deserve to be where I am. (You just got a true glimpse of my internal Imposter voice).
After learning that Imposter Syndrome is real, I have gained the knowledge that I believe will help me deal with my professional fears one at a time instead of as an all-encompassing, life sucking monster.
As I approach each new task in my professional life, I plan to approach the task, not the all-encompassing fear that “this task” is going to be the pivotal one that is going to reveal that I am a fraud.
I am going to work to move to a place where I am comfortable with what others believe, Professionally, I am good enough.
Stick with me, this is going to be an interesting journey but I am always grateful for the knowledge and growth that comes when I open up.