Imposter Syndrome

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.

Bertrand Russell

To the outside world I would look like a successful human being. And I can’t really argue in the sense that I have a lovely husband, wonderful children, a great home, fabulous friends and a loving family. I live in a wonderful part of the world and have safety and security. I have achieved well in all the areas that our society judges us on, academically and in work. I can see all that yet I don’t trust it. My brain constantly tells me that I don’t deserve it, my luck will run out and that it will all come crashing down.

In her research into imposter syndrome, Dr Pauline Clance describes the inability to internalise a sense of competence and talent, rather attributing success to other factors such as personal charm or other’s failure. Chronic fear of not being able to maintain success and being exposed as a fraud or incompetent are common factors and often coexist with symptoms of anxiety, depression and low self esteem.

I have no idea where it comes from, but I have always felt the same. My GCSE results weren’t down to my intelligence or hard work, it was luck. My A level results weren’t good enough. Being the first person to go to uni wasn’t down to me, anyone could have done it. Going to uni the second and third time was the lazy option, to get me out of actually working. Getting funding for those courses was not about me being a good candidate but about being in the right place at the right time. Doing well in job interviews and getting good feedback was about my ability to sell myself rather than actual skills and knowledge. My friends are only my friends because I’m around.

I know how crazy this sounds, and surely this can’t all be true. I guess running though the centre of it all is the feeling that I’m not good enough. This is the feeling that I constantly have to battle against and it has far too much influence over my behaviour. Whether I’m running away from things that are tough, or trying so hard that I burn out, it’s all rooted in the same place.

Blogging, and social media, this new world I find myself in is just about the most challenging thing I could be doing. By writing a blog instead of a diary I am obviously hoping someone might read it. But my brain keeps telling me to stop being so ridiculous and arrogant, that I couldn’t possibly have anything to add to the millions of blogs and books and articles that are already out there. Why would anyone be interested in what I have to say? What instagram does to someone like me is definitely too big a question for this post.

Clearly I have shaky self esteem. I am certainly a perfectionist. I rarely feel that I have done anything well enough and I set impossibly high expectations for myself. I often focus on my flaws or deficiencies and I find it very difficult to believe or accept compliments. I feel very guilty if I put myself first, like I’m being selfish.

I’m fed up with feeling this way. I want to believe in myself. I want to do things without doubting myself. I want to be happy with who I am and be able to celebrate my achievements. I want to believe people when they tell me I’m good at something.

So what can I do? For a start I have to keep going. I have to challenge these thoughts as they come up. Each time I get a compliment I need to squirrel it away so that I can revisit it when the doubts come back. I need to keep being nice to myself, giving myself permission to do things as well as I can do them. My writing doesn’t have to be perfect, I just have to do it.

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