Have you heard of “impostor syndrome”?
Whether you have or not, you have probably experienced it!
And it’s everywhere! Even out in the wild of Manhattan.
I overheard this conversation on the subway and it really got me thinking:
Ms. A: “How’s your impostor syndrome these days? I thought mine would get better after I got that promotion, but it has only gotten worse. I don’t know what to do!”
Ms. B: “OMG that happened to me, too! I think maybe it just gets worse the more senior you get?”
Ms. A: “I read that it’s pretty normal. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have it”…
It took everything in me not to interrupt their conversation. What I wanted to say was:
“Impostor syndrome” is not a fact of life.
It is NOT synonymous with achievement or ambition.
It is not something you have to live with.
This is a little bit of a controversial stance to take, I know. “Impostor syndrome” is popularly discussed as something that is “normal” and with many “hacks” to “get over it’”. We tend to be told that it can be managed, but not really addressed.
And, this makes me MAD.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad we’ve named it. I’m glad it is recognized as a real felt human experience. I’m glad it is out of shadows and from behind the veil of shame. I’m SO glad that two women are sitting on the subway talking about their internal experience of their work in the world.
What I struggle with is how widely accepted it has become, as the norm, seemingly offered as a mandatory suffering, or almost as if it is an occupational hazard of being an achieving person!
As someone who is verrrrry familiar with this “syndrome” and lived in a perma-‘impostorism’ state for YEARS, I get it, but….
PLOT TWIST! Impostorism & I–no longer! Alleluia!
I can tell you that you absolutely, without a doubt, do not have to live with being all impostor-y all the time.
Here’s the truth about “impostor syndrome”:
1) “Impostor syndrome” is not random. It doesn’t just descend upon you out of the blue like the weather. It comes from a very specific inner conflict–a discrepancy between your “essential self”, or authentic self, and the way you are living in your world.
2) “Impostor Syndrome” is circumstantial. You might be living a great life, but when it is not *your* life, then you will have feelings of impostor syndrome…precisely because you are being an impostor!! Change the situation –> change the feeling of impostorism.
3) “Impostor Syndrome” is there to help you. It’s there to guide you and lead you and point you in the right direction, not to screw you. It is a symptom of not living your right life, and an big flashing red sign that something needs to shift. It is not a part of your character, or something to accept as “just the way things are.”
Back to Ms. A and Ms. B:
What I hear in that conversation is two women who are experiencing a feeling that is intentionally and specifically designed to help them by informing them that their circumstances are not working and they need to change them.
They are just not doing the work that they are uniquely well-suited to do in the world and that will lead to fulfillment.
It’s not that this is a straightforward answer, but it is way less painful than the alternative of impostorism for life!
If you’re now thinking, wait. NOW WHAT?! Impostor syndrome be gone, but now I’m stuck!
Don’t worry! There’s a class for that. 😉
You can head on over to wtfamidoing.co to check out the latest and greatest of our online resources in the “WTF Am I Doing with My Life?” school. We’ll have you out of impostorism and into purpose STAT!