Imposter Syndrome

Stock image of a man with a really raging case of imposter syndrome

It has occurred to me that many of us are harbouring some form of imposter syndrome; for me I know it to be true.

I can’t remember a time where I didn’t feel like some sort of fraud, even as a child. I’d turn up to school a little bit behind the eight-ball on the day where we were supposed to bring a particular thing from home; I’d not only forgotten, but simultaneously been the only one to forget and then been left with feelings of complete inadequacy.

Instead of just laughing it off, I’d completely internalise these types of relatively inconsequential (to others, at least) events, and each time it happened it would just add to the cache of anxiety that I was somehow a flawed human who made many more mistakes than any other human being, ever.

As an adult, things worsened, particularly on starting work and having to front. It’s true to say that the world of teaching isn’t the easiest, and having a raging dose of imposter syndrome is a laughably terrible thing to bring to the teaching table.

What I have figured out is that while I have a reputation for being “a strong person” and having resilience, imposter syndrome is exactly the opposite. We have never been taught or had real resilience if we feel like a fraud at life.

If we haven’t been taught what resilience is, we need to learn it. For me, I’m doing a crash course on finding out everything I can about this thing I’ve read about called “confidence”; that elusive trait that absolutely every other living organism has except for me.

What I have learned so far is that real confidence doesn’t mean turning up like a show pony to speak at an event. To me, tasks of that kind are relatively straight-forward and enjoyable. The real work happens at 3am when you are doing your mental audit and suddenly everything unravels.

In the space of around 30 minutes, you’re going from being in a deep sleep, kind of dreaming about how great it was to give a talk, to being wide awake and getting up to write your resignation letter and to put a bid on a small cave in the mountains, far away from everything and everyone.

These swings between being completely functional on the outer, and the deep, desperate, gnawing physical pain of self-doubt could do your head in. The absolutely funniest thing about it all is that people can tell that you have imposter syndrome.

For now I am packing up my 3am “Spreadsheet of Mistakes” for good.

I’ve asked myself: do I really want to spend the next 50 years feeling like this? I can, at least, trust myself on the answer to that.



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