I must thank my coach and his wife and whiskey for providing this topic to me as a point of conversation.
Let’s talk about imposter syndrome. First, what it is? Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people have difficulty internalizing their success. Basically, they believe that they are somehow a fraud or undeserving of success despite external evidence that exists to the contrary. This syndrome is mostly associated with high achieving women – which speaks volumes about the sociological and cultural implications of being women but that’s another conversation. For example, imposter syndrome is asking “why on earth would people listen to me because I’m not qualified, as good as this other person, etc.” when there is evidence to indicate that people do, indeed, want to listen to what you have to say.
Anyways, I find myself struggling with it, big time. And from my conversations with others, it seems that this is a common thing for women.
This phenomenon isn’t specific to one particular situation or scenario but for me, I feel this way all the time about competing or training. I’m an extremely logical person – to a fault in some instances, but nevertheless, I tend to look at things in a very logical fashion. Ask me how I plan to achieve something and I can lay out a plan from point A to point Z for you without much trouble. Ask me to believe in my own ability to execute said plan for the intended result, and I’m probably going to give you a list of reasons why I can’t or it won’t work for me or whatever. Basically, I logically know that I can do said thing but I do not believe that I can do said thing.
And that lack of belief is not rooted in my desire to not do the work, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I am willing to work hard, very hard (often times, too much) to achieve something. I display some very classic diligence behaviors. Basically, I feel that I must work harder and work more to avoid being viewed as a “fraud” or “imposter” buuuut hard work begets success and thus more “imposter” feelings. Furthermore, I will be the first person to praise anyone’s accomplishments and attempt to externally validate and recognize their awesomeness but dear god don’t ask me to do that for myself. It’s not that I can’t or won’t celebrate my success or progress but that I will attempt to qualify it to pieces with “yeah but it should be this”. And that becomes problematic.
What is interesting to me is that, in talking with other women, it seems that this feeling is pervasive in almost every aspect of life but really comes to light with high-priority activities like sports, lifting, or their chosen hobby. I know for myself, doing things that aren’t easy or that I’m not very good at pushes those buttons. I feel like an “imposter” because I’m not as good as x,y, or z person or it’s not perfect or I’m not the best, etc. despite working hard at something because my investment is higher. And often times, there is a distinct disconnect between our own perception and how others view us. Someone’s perception of me may be one thing but I may believe the opposite or something else to be true and internalize that as my reality.
Simply put, imposter syndrome is a bit like saying: “I don’t feel like I’m good enough even though there is plenty of evidence to suggest that I am good enough”. In talking with other women about this, it is both comforting and discouraging to know that so many feel the same way. It is comforting because it’s nice to know that other people experience this but discouraging because I tend to think that my “tribe” is full of some really incredible, bad ass people who have absolutely no reason to feel like “imposters”. But they do. And that’s the complicated part of it all.
Maybe we all just need to spend a little time trying to view ourselves how others view us. And maybe we should all spend a little time telling others about their awesome.