Back when I first met this sly monster, I had no idea it had a name.
The Impostor Syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
The impostor in me initially pulled me by the collar in school.
I was in primary school, a shy, bright kid with excellent grades and exemplary behaviour. My mind had already begun manifesting its bursts of chaotic creativity, and I was beginning to experience anxiety and hints of depression, which would become more and more potent as the years went by. My self-esteem was non-existent, and my self-doubt paralyzed me oh so often, playing narratives in my head about my unworthiness and uselessness.
Even the thought of failing a test sent me into a spiral of fear – what will my teachers think about my supposedly low grade, will they finally realize I’m not as good as they think I am? Oh, the times I thought I’m failing only to discover that I did more than well. The stress I was putting myself through is so ridiculous in retrospect, but in those moments, I was completely sure that eventually I’ll screw things up, and everybody will finally realize what a fraud I am. Thoughts always revolved around the imminent disappointment I will cause to everyone around me once they see “the truth”, product of my delusions and insecurity, fueled by the concept of not being good enough. Compliments felt fake, and the more I got, the deeper I went into the land of impostors, because my mind was unable to perceive positive feedback as accurate. Fear was a constant dominant, as I anticipated the moment when everybody (extreme until the end) will see my true face. Never mind all the achievements, qualities and perks of my existence – the jury in my head had reached a verdict: I’m deceiving the ones I love, how could they not see that I’m not what they think I am.
“At any time I still expect that the no-talent police will come and arrest me” – Mike Myers
Being yourself fully sounds idyllic – you do what you love, you don’t stray from the pure essence of the self, you have the power of creativity. But being yourself comes with many other struggles, many of them coming from within. These times are filled with competition, these days status anxiety is an omnipresent issue and all this rush for standing out and affirming yourself leaves a bitter taste more often than not.
“Why would anyone care about what I have to say, draw, write, express? Why would I even be relevant? Am I bringing anything new? Am I a phony? I don’t write enough, how I could say I’m a writer”
The impostor syndrome can find an easy way to intrude in any area of your life. How many of you feel like you don’t really know what you’re doing, or that your capabilities are limited? How many of you feel discouraged when surrounded by people with incredible accomplishments, not jealous or envious, but sad that you haven’t done much with your life? One thing leads to another, the rush for success brings a good dose of self-doubt, and the imposter syndrome slowly takes over your thoughts.
“Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?” – Meryl Streep
As with any negative, intrusive manifestation, the best thing to do is to acknowledge it, analyze it as to find the root of all of this, feel it and then let it go. Keep your rational mind alert, and as soon as you feel the same pattern emerging, you can prepare yourself to have a talk with the little monster, breaking the habit of letting it dominate you. Communicate with that part of yourself, pull out the big gun of positive mindset, and, most importantly, don’t panic. Everything is manageable, and even though your mind is a big downer who hasn’t learnt being nice yet, you can work with it by reminding yourself of what’s real and what’s not, throwing proof in the face of the impostor – I did this and that, I can do so much more, so your arguments, dear monster, are invalid.
This feeling might never fully go away. You might have times where you forget all about these strange moods, but triggers are everywhere. The key is to remember that it will pass and that you are not alone in this. We’re all struggling with feelings of inadequacy, we’ve all had moments in which we felt we might as well give up, feeling blindfolded as we navigate the strange paths of life, and that’s okay. Acceptance is essential, and once you come to terms with this, the impostor syndrome will have less and less power to control you, and all that will remain is this voice you can choose to listen to, and then agree to disagree.
Ana Moca-Grama is a writer, photographer and nature lover. She writes short fiction and introspective poems, draws when lost for words and actively supports the movement for acceptance and eradication of taboos around mental disorders.