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An image of sheep reflecting the common experience of Imposter Syndrome among everyone.

Imposter Syndrome (and why almost everyone has it)

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Imposter Syndrome (and why almost everyone has it)

Imposter syndrome is the pervasive idea that we’re not actually good enough, people think we are better than we are, and at any moment we’re going to get found out and disappoint everyone.

Beyond the workplace

Imposter syndrome is most associated with professionals. It can range from a medical professional who feels like they’ve been projecting an image of confidence too much, to a writer or musician who is sure that their next piece will never live up to the acclaim of previous pieces and everyone will suddenly realize they don’t know what they’re doing, to a middle-manager who feels like nobody above or below them realizes how little they know how to do.

But! Less talked-about (but no less prevalent) is imposter syndrome in other areas of life. New parents tend to feel this strongly, as can the “elders” of a family that everyone looks to for advice and strength and support. Perhaps worst is when the person most responsible for the finances of a household feels like everyone just trusts them to keep everything running smoothly, and maybe they shouldn’t because it could all come crashing down at any moment and everyone will see them for the hopeless shambles of a human being that they really are.

Feelings are not facts

And yet (while everyone makes mistakes sometimes) the reality is that we’re all doing our best. Given that imposter syndrome affects up to 82% of people, let’s remember to have some perspective. Everyone feels like they’re winging it sometimes. Everyone feels the pressure.

Well, perhaps not everyone. There’s that other 18%. Some people are sure they’re the best thing ever. Then again, there’s probably some in that 18% that actually feel worse than the 82%—they just couldn’t admit it, even in an anonymized study.

But one thing’s for sure: it’s very, very common. Especially in high-performing women, by the way, and people of color. In other words, people who typically “have to do twice as much to get recognized as half as good”.

That said, the flipside of this is that people who are not in any of those categories may feel “everything is in my favor, so I really have no excuse to not achieve the most”, and can sometimes take very extreme actions to try to avoid perceived failure, and it can be their family that pays the price.

Things to remember

If you find imposter syndrome nagging at you, remember these things:

  • There are people far less competent than you, doing the same thing
  • Nobody knows how to do everything themselves, especially at first
  • If you don’t know how to do something, you can usually find out
  • There is always someone to ask for help, or at least advice, or at least support

At the end of the day, we evolved to eat fruit and enjoy the sun. None of us are fully equipped for all the challenges of the modern world, but if we do our reasonable best, and look after each other (and that means that you too, dear reader, deserve looking after as well), we can all do ok.

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