Intruder Alert! (Impostor Syndrome)

Intruder alert!
Intruder alert!

I often find myself bogged down by impostor syndrome.

“Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.”

When I work and I know I am working, sometimes I still do not feel like it is enough. When I feel like I should be performing better, giving results faster, when I wonder if other people look at me and think how unsuited or unqualified I am for the position I am in, if they see me as a fraud.

It really isn’t about other people though, is it? Impostor Syndrome is basically when you do not think you are enough. When you find yourself in a position that you feel unprepared or unqualified for. Yet you are in it. When you think that whoever hired you or put you in that position made a mistake, you reckon it is only a matter of time before they figure out that you do not know much, that there is quite a bit you still need to learn.

Sometimes I doubt myself in little ways. When someone asks me a question in relation to my domain of ‘specialty’ and I cannot answer it. When I do not feel like I am doing enough at work. When I try to get an overview of all the things I think I should know professionally and then realise that I am still very far from getting there.

Sometimes I doubt myself in a big way. When I am expected to chair a meeting with different domain experts, who will all be expecting me to be the expert in my domain.

Sometimes I rock myself to sleep, worried that tomorrow will be the day my cover is blown, that my boss will finally discover that the portfolio I used to get the job was literally EVERYTHING I had EVER done in the field.

Sometimes the blinking light of my suspended laptop in the dark as I try to silence my doubts and go to sleep is the little star in the far distance that spurs me on, the little light at the end of the tunnel that I hope to one day reach. Why this little light? Well, that blinking light blinks because my laptop is suspended. Why is it suspended? Well, it has several tabs worth of reading that I am yet to get to. I sleep watching that blinking light knowing tomorrow is another day, and at 4am, that blinking light takes me back to where I left off on my journey to get to a point where I finally feel like, yes, I am here because I deserve to be.

My thoughts on the impostor syndrome, let it be a source of inspiration. A fear or hunger that keeps you on your toes, keeps you working towards being the person you think you have to become to warrant your role. Let it be a constantly rising bar that ensures you never settle. That’s the alternative, isn’t it? Feeling like an expert and then starting to slack off because you get comfortable, you think you have ‘reached’.

It would help if you were in a place where you feel like they are investing in you. A place where they are willing to give you time and space to become that person you currently feel you are masquerading as. I feel I have been lucky to find myself in such a place.

Invest in yourself as well. Work towards becoming that person you feel you are masquerading as.

I have wanted to write this post for a long time, but always hesitated because I did not feel like I had found a conclusive answer or solution yet. I still do not think I have.

Can it really be ended? Solved? Cured? Hypnotized away? I wonder.

Like I said, I do not know.

I choose to trust the hours. Remember that post? Trust the hours. I’m keeping my head down and just soldiering on. Trusting the hours.

You know I like words. I am a word collector. I got these from a Ted Talk several years back. These words are what keep me valiantly/foolishly (depends on perspective) going back for more.

“And here’s my challenge to you,

Let blatant audacity be our hallmark,

Let us dream beyond our capacity to imagine,

Let us set unobtainable goals and hold ourselves up to unattainable standards,

Let us commit to an impossible task,

And then…

Let us go out there and fail until we lose the fear of failure.

Let us be naive, after all, we are still too young to realise that certain things are impossible,

So let us do them anyway.

Years from now when we look back on our youth,

Let us wonder at how greatly we dared,

How naive we were in our sincerity and in our yearnings to make a difference.

Let us be amazed at the great odds we took on,

by the great feats we accomplished,

And if our fate is such,

Let us at least look back at how bravely we fell,

And how foolishly we went back out in search of another dose of failure,

How futile it was, yet how fulfilling,

May our story be one of triumph or failure but NOT ANYTHING IN BETWEEN,

either way, may it be worth telling.”

-Obura Tongoi

Such beautiful words!

If ever there were words that could get me out of bed and keep me going when all seems naught, these are those words. I have them written on a little paper that I transfer from notebook to notebook as I migrate from one to the next. The piece of paper is old and worn and has seen many years, many notebooks, to start with, it was even stuck on my wall. It is my constant companion.

May my story be worth telling. May your story be worth telling. Win or lose, triumph or failure, let it not be a story of mediocrity and lukewarmness due to fear of acting, of being, of doing.

DO IT ANYWAY! Get up, get dressed and show up. If today be the day I am discovered, then so be it! If it is not, I live another day to strive towards filling the big shoes I need to.

Let that be a challenge to you too.

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9 Comments

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  1. 4
    Sarah

    No one will entrust you with something they care about if they don’t believe you can do it and if there’s someone they feel will be a better fit. Especially not in industry! The constant pursuit of excellence and growth is what matters. Like you said, trust the hours.

  2. 6
    jay

    I feel like a fraud regardless of what I do or where I am. It keeps me alone, even when with others. I have friends but no deep relationships where anything personal gets discussed. My last relationship, those moments when I tried to be honest, turned into volcanos where I still feel the pain from the burning words and actions. It’s safer to stay inside the shell, do what needs to be done, and be alone.
    Maybe someday I will stick my head out again.

    • 7
      kathleen

      I do hope you one day stick your head out again.
      I truly believe life is worth the risk, it’ll be scary and it will likely lead to some hurt but I truly believe life is worth the risk.

      All the best.

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