Impostor Syndrome: When Will You Guys Catch On?

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I wrote a while ago about how my narcissistic dad used to brag to friends and relatives about my prowess on the softball field. I was a horrible player and every time I played, I was told afterward what an embarrassment I was. But to other people? To other people I was an athletic dynamo. My dad would tell anyone who would listen what an athlete I was.

It’s not surprising that I’ve spent most of my life feeling like an impostor.

If I am perceived as good at something, I am convinced that at any moment I will be found out. I’m not all that good at my job and sooner or later they are gonna notice. I’m not a very good writer, I’m totally running out of things to say. Sooner or later, people will see that I’m fraying around the edges and really, I just recycle my own words over and over.

Randy sent me an article about the Imposter Syndrome and I found it fascinating. People who suffer from Imposter Syndrome are usually very intelligent and capable and all the things that I’m afraid I’m not.

Then it occurred to me. I’m not really an impostor after all, because I’m not all those things.

I am an impostor impostor.

And with that, I negate my very existence. Poof.

If I am honest, then I have to admit the article is true, I do feel more confident than I let on. Not all the time and not overly so..but still..I have more confidence than I show.

I played softball as a teenager and well into my 20s. I had a few great catches and managed to get a few hits. I think I made it across the plate a few times, but I never got very good at it.

I’m not the best programmer in the world or even at my job, but I can get the job done.

I’m not the best writer in the world, but people do read what I write and I do write from my heart.

These are the things I have to remind myself every single day. Every day when I’m in my car, I run down the ways I am going to be ‘found out’.

I have no idea what I think people will find when they find the real me. Maybe the truth is, I am the real me and I’m not lying to the world, I am lying to myself.

Either way, I need to read that article a dozen more times or so.

 

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  • Holy snappin’ duck shit, Mich, you’re killing me here! I had no idea other people lived in fear of being discovered as a fake…my life’s story right there…sheesh!

  • Every time I write a post, my last thought before posting it is “well, they can’t all be winners.” I never think anything I do is good enough and that eventually everyone else will see me as I see myself – broken, inept, not good at life, and not funny.

    I don’t know if that’s imposter syndrome or just really bad self confidence, but either way it sucks.

    • HAHAHAH…THAT IS EXACTLY what I thought about this one. Here’s the other thing..I actually wrote this post on my other blog ( I wrote a different blog before this one ) and it’s been updated..but it’s still an old post. So..I wrote about being a fake while stealing from an old article…I mean..it is MY article..but still.

      I don’t know if I’m horrified or amused that I did this.

  • The statement in the article about “I can appear more competent than I am” is spot on for me. I will have to re-read it as well, especially given your take since we seem to have similar backgrounds with our parents.

    Another blogger wrote about this not too long ago, and I wish I could remember who it was…if I do, I will send you the link if you want (though you probably already saw it 🙂 )

    • I don’t recall seeing one, so if you remember, please let me know! It always makes me feel a little more at ease every time I read that someone else feels the same way. You know? It’s really good to not be alone.

  • Whenever I feel like a loser or something I think about how there are people with fucking Ebola right now and I think about what I can do to help. Usually nothing. And then I feel a little worse but secretly like, “Well, at least I don’t have Ebola.”

  • I had never heard of this until last week, when I attended a women in leadership conference in Boise. I thought about you. Actually, I thought about myself, and wondered if I have the opposite problem, which I’ll call Super Inflated Ego Syndrome, and then I thought about your dad, and wondered if I have a problem with narcism (see, how this is already all about me?), and THEN I thought about you.

    I hope you don’t mind the bumbling twitter intro to Caroline Heldman, who is a total rockstar on that and other subjects.

    And I have no idea how you are at softball, but I think you’re a great writer.

    • No, I am ALWAYS happy for the introductions!! thank you for that!

      I don’t think you have a problem..the very fact that you question it means you don’t. Someone with narcissistic personality disorder would never admit, even to themselves, that THEY have a problem. It’s everyone else.

      That being said..all of us have narcissistic tendencies..it’s part of being human.

  • I think everybody with half a brain feels like an impostor. It’s a sign of intelligence, to realize and accept the hard truth that no matter how good you are at something, there will always be someone better. Do I think I’m a decent humor writer? Sure. But Mark Twain I am not, and never will be. Also, on top of that I just spelled “humor” as “gynor.”

  • What is there to catch on to Michelle? You are honest to your readers about yourself and your struggles. That’s a very brave thing to do, and people love you for it!

    That said, I completely understand where you’re coming from and suffer from the same thing myself. But, I’m no good at convincing myself that I’m competent at anything. The validation always has to come from others and even then there has to be a ton of it for me to believe it for even a few seconds. And then that fear of failure makes me too afraid to put myself out there and try things, so I don’t get the positive reinforcement I need….IT’S A FUCKING CATCH 22! It’s also why I’m a professional commenter and not a blogger myself. Even while commenting I’m thinking “All of the other commenters have their own blogs…am I supposed to be doing this?!”

    You are awesome, Michelle. Please never “poof” away, girl!

    • I get what you are saying..and I don’t believe there is any requirement to blog…none at all. And I’m crawling out of my skin every time I post..but then I do it anyway and think..is THIS the one where people go: What the fucking fuck? Shut up, you whiny bitch!

      hahah.

      And I appreciate your comments very much! Thank you. 🙂

  • And yet again I think we are sisters from another mother. I do a fair amount of public speaking and get congratulated all the time on how great it is, but everytime before I speak I think – this time, this time it is gonna suck.
    And I feel the same about my blog posts, and I can obsess about why this one had 100 hits and that one had 32. ARghh!!
    I think this self doubt, and feelings of being an impostor are what keep us on our toes, but still, staying on your toes all the time leads to waking up with horrible cramps in your calf muscles!!
    Thank you for sharing the article, and your honest take on the world. I love reading your blogs – all. of. them.
    And I personally strongly believe in recycling our old blogs and updating them. Just like we do our stories around the campfire – they evolve. We evolve.
    Wow…..sorry for the long comment….I guess your post struck a nerve.

    • I LOVE long comments!! And thank you so much!

      You’re right, we do evolve…it was funny, reading that old post. At the time, I had no idea what narcissistic personality disorder was and I was still lost in so much confusion. I am grateful for who I am now.

  • another really great post!
    i get it. i really do.

    i used to feel like this a lot and a lot of it had to do with growing up in a shitty environment for me also. but it also set the stage for who i surrounded myself with in my early teens AND how i allowed others to treat me.

    i’m getting better, i swear i am by THE DAY as i sort my shit out. i can’t listen to that shit any more and refuse to be around dicky toxic people who make me feel like i’m not enough. or i’m less than. or that i’m a dumb girl.

    i really will not allow it any more!

    recently did some housecleaning of those douchebags. i feel so much lighter and stronger.
    love your work! keep on doin whatcha do! you rock lady!

  • I have loads of impostor syndrome. There was some study a few years ago that showed that people who never doubt themselves are usually crap at what they do. So we must be doing all right. Ha ha, have them fooled. Dear God, did you see what I did there?

  • Ah, I can relate. Denial is a strong coping mechanism. I think we learn to deny even the good dtuff about ourselves especially if we were never told that we were good at anything (in fact we were told we were terrible and useless). You’re awesome!

  • Count me in to this club…
    How many ways do I fit this brief and then some?
    I was top of the class for most of my school life but my father had always told me that if I was getting an A it was the teachers were idiots and the other pupils in my class must be really stupid.

    This has coloured my self perception for life. It has been nailed into me that if other people think I’m good at something then surely that must mean they are wrong, as I couldn’t possibly be.

    My (thankfully) ex husband used to do the same thing, except publicly when he would tell everyone how wonderfully talented his wife was, but in private he’d tear me down.

    There is such a negative self image in my head which seems to be backed up by my life in the real world, so I guess it’s not surprising that I find it hard to convince myself otherwise.

  • Elvis Costello calls his band The Imposters and they still rock pretty damn hard when they want to…
    I was 14 the first time I won a motorcycle race, the last year they put you in the kids class. When my dad saw the trophy, he actually smiled a little, and he and my mom showed up to watch the next one two weeks later, which I won in a similar fashion. On the ride home, my (older, faster) friend asked me what was wrong. I looked at my trophy and said “That was easy. I don’t even deserve this”. He reminded me that it was just as easy for everyone else in my class, and that I’d beat them all fair and square. He said that next year I’d be in the sportsman class and it would be harder. He was right. It’s sort of ironic that I only stopped feeling like an imposter when I was 16 and could finally afford to wear real motocross gear so I didn’t LOOK like an imposter, even though I didn’t win any races that year.
    This also reminds me of something my friend Jack used to say: Are we really happy, or are we only fooling ourselves that we are happy?

  • This seems to have struck a chord with your followers. And shows me that I’m not the only one that feels this way.
    On the plus side, I have recently started to believe in myself.
    So there is hope.

  • So many wonderful comments on this one! I always worry when people will notice I can’t possibly actually be this person they see me as. Me? A talented artist? A kind and capable person? A wonderful friend? I hear these things but in my head, it can’t be me they are talking about.

    • I try to catch myself when I start the circular negative thoughts and replace them or at least disrupt them. It doesn’t always work..sometimes..it takes hold and it’s gonna have it’s say..every last word.

  • *twangggg* (that’s the sound of chord being struck)

    My dad bragged about me a lot, too, but I was lucky in that he never belittled me. He just didn’t notice I existed unless I was winning trophies at horse shows or getting straight A’s in school. Which I did. A lot.

    And, oh yes…I’m an imposter most days. I think we all must feel that way, or at least that’s what I *tell* myself when I’m feeling imposter-y while standing in line somewhere, when I’m sure I’m in the wrong line, or I’m sure the people next to me know which line is the right line, or they’re so trendy and cool that they never feel out of place, and I’m sure any minute someone is going to walk over and tap my shoulder and say loudly, “you’re in the wrong line, AND EVERYONE KNOWS IT but you…The line for the less-cool people is over there,” and everyone will laugh because they know I’m an imposter, and they’re not.

    So, I tell myself that they all feel the same way I do, and they have no idea what they’re doing, either. It makes me a little feel better.

    I do tend to be confident at stuff I’m good at, but still. I was always that dorky kid who didn’t fit in with the cool kids. They had new clothes…I had hand-me-downs. They had running water…I had water jugs. They had bikes…I had a horse. They had toys with batteries…I had crayons.

    It carried into adulthood. Even when I’ve driven new BMWs (most of my adult life–until NOW, of course), I feel like the biggest imposter ever–like, a complete BMW poser. I’m nowhere near as cool (or as snotty) as the people who ‘deserve’ to drive new BMWs, and I’m always pretty sure there’s a club somewhere, where they all stand around in their spiffy country-club clothes, and wonder why I’m allowed to drive one.

    So…no. You’re not alone. Come stand next to me. I’m the one at the back of the line, trying to blend in.

    • HAHAHAH. Yes! That is how I feel most of the time. And OUR line will be the BEST line..and if those other people are lucky..we might let them stand in line with us.

      now…what are we waiting for in our line? Or are we just being cool?

  • It’s the line where we get to the front and they say “Oh, it’s YOU. We’ve been waiting for you. Here’s a million dollars, and a pony, because you were able to just BE yourself.”

    I think it’d also be nice if the other line ended with someone smacking them with a pingpong paddle, for trying to look cool the whole time:
    “WRONG LINE” *smack* “Now go to the back of the other line, and try to be nicer”.

    😀

    • I am so on board with this…why didn’t we think of it sooner? Well, by ‘we’ I mean ‘you’. And can we use cattle prods instead of ping pong paddles for the worst offenders?

  • We could take turn running the counter. I want to be like that chick on “Terminal” who tells Tom Hanks’ character: “Sir. The LIGHT green form. Go to the wall. NEXT!!!!!”

    Revenge of the imposter-nerds, indeed.

    muahahaha

  • I have spent my whole life feeling this way and it has made me screw things up because I doubt myself so much. I am getting better as I get older. If feel more like I don’t care what people think of me. I am who I am. I know inside where I am strong and where I am weak. I try to use the strong part of me to reinforce the weaker part now and it is working more all the time. It is not easy but my life has never been easy. It’s just one step at a time just aim for that.

    • I agree, it HAS gotten better as I get older. I am realistic about where my weaknesses are…everyone has weaknesses and that’s not shameful. I spent most of my life figuring that out. I guess we just keep taking those one steps, then. 🙂

  • This reminds me so much of my childhood, if you substitute “Mother” for “Father” and “Academic” for “Athletic” prowess.
    A friend of mine– a psychology student at the time– described Impostor Syndrome to me awhile ago. It’s a poisonous thing, and difficult to overcome. It *has* gotten a bit better as I get older, too, but there’s still a ways to go.

    • Right there with you. I’m becoming more and more accepting of myself..I wish it would have happened when I was younger…but I am grateful it is happening now.

  • I have felt this way all my life. You know that saying “Jack of all trades, master of none?” Yeah — that would be me. I have always wanted to be the best at SOMETHING — but I guess, realistically, no one is the best at anything — at least, not forever. I’m trying to change my mindset and stop worrying about how others perceive me and just do what makes me happy (even if I suck at it).

    • I’m getting there..I really am…the ‘not worrying about how others perceive me’ part. I mean..it’s not like it’s gone, but it doesn’t rule my life, either.

  • God, I love you. Someone very cool referred me to this article, and it’s just what I needed to read. I’m an impostor impostor too. I now no longer exist, and for this I prostrate myself at your feet!

  • “Impostor Syndrome” is my middle name, and yes it made filling out those standardized test forms a real pain…I used to walk around my high school feeling like a complete failure, thinking, “Well, at least I am not a drug addict.” I see it as real progress in my life that, instead of just hating myself for being flawed, I think “How am I going to compensate for this behavior that I find inconvenient, yet inevitable?”

  • I’ve developed some spins that may help you.
    1. I do think I’m talented, and awesome enough. However, nobody wants to give me money (yet.) I don’t see tailoring my product (self) to fit trends as an answer. because the masses are fickle and sometimes tasteless. I say this having been one of the tasteless masses. I know.
    2. When I’m charging money for my work. I’m essentially charging for my time. If someone comes to me with a proposal to give me money. it’s because they feel familiar enough with my work. How much I value the end result means nothing. I’m not pricing the quality; I’m pricing the time it took me to become impressive and the time this project is taking away from my life. So I need to mindfully STFU ™, take the money and do the work. If I suck, people will stop offering me money for my time. Hopefully eventually people will give me money for the stuff I actually like to create.

By Michelle

Michelle

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