how dare i?
When someone asks you what you do, do you feel the need to add “aspiring” or “up and coming” in front of the title? Do you feel nervous telling someone you’re a journalist, actor, or entrepreneur? When someone compliments you on a job well done, do you doubt their genuineness?
In 1978, psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes gave a name to this particular feeling: Imposter Syndrome. Clance and Imes defined Imposter Syndrome in their paper The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention as “the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck and not because of your talent or qualifications.”
Keep in mind that in 1978 social media didn’t exist and you couldn’t compare yourself to your peers’ accomplishments by opening an app— let alone people around the country who you do not know at all. One thing I find most interesting about Imposter Syndrome is that it affects high achieving individuals the most. I am going to go out on a limb and say that because of the added social elements of the digital sphere imposter syndrome is something that most Millennials and iGens will have to deal with at some point in their life. Before actual research is recorded, just know you heard it here first.
The first time I ever heard the term it felt like my whole life made a little bit more sense. If reading this article has stirred something in you, I implore you to check out an article from Fast Company in which writer Melody Wilding helps you self-identify into the 5 subgroups identified by topic expert Valerie Young in her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.
The five categories are as follows:
The Natural Genius
The Rugged Individualist
Unsurprisingly, I fall into the perfectionist category. If you read my last piece, Life Post Kindred Fest, you could have probably picked up on language that gave it away. I have called myself a perfectionist since high school (the signs were probably there since I started talking). One of the main symptoms I deal with is the paralyzing fear that when I take on a new task I haven’t done before I won’t feel the satisfaction of a job well done. I thought after successfully throwing a start-up festival I would bask in the glory. My reality was I went home, slept, woke up, and started making notes of things that can be improved upon next year.
Imposter Syndrome like most psychological phenomena is not something immediately curable, but rather something you identify and further learn to manage. Honestly, one of the most helpful things for me has been having frank conversations with peers who I perceive as confident and whose work I admire. They, too, deal with the insidious thought that they will be found out to be a fraud—that they aren’t as talented as they envisioned themselves being. It takes a group of people you trust and respect around you to pull you up when those moments of self-doubt become too crippling.
Recently, I was asked why I chose to use paper and pen for my planner and task list. This is just another one of my tools for keeping the Imposter Syndrome at bay. Crossing out a task provides a rush that I am fond of. That rush keeps me motivated to push through whatever daunting project may be right beneath it. Breaking down projects into tasks makes it much more manageable. Most of the times, the tasks necessary to execute a project are all things I am familiar with but doing them all together may be to me a new experience. Recognizing that I have completed these miniature tasks in the past mitigates any feelings that I am not capable of doing the work.
I am still working on celebrating my successes more. Just today, in fact, I completed the special events app for the City of Detroit that has to be turned in to throw the festival in about an hour. Last year it took me about two weeks to make it through because getting an event through the Special Events Committee frightened me. It was a small moment, but I took it in to immerse in the change within myself over this past year. To be frank, having thrown the festival with no prior experience has made me much more confident to take on projects that again are new to me. I am slowly but surely chiseling away at this disease of doubt.