“No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’” – Tom Hanks
Imposter syndrome has run rampant over the last few decades or so and everyone from myself to your dad to global superstar Tom Hanks has felt it at least one point in life. Imposter syndrome is the feeling that you are a fraud. You are in some position of authority or responsibility and either don’t know how you got there or don’t think you deserve to be there.
Most of the conventional advice on this subject will tell you to stop deceiving yourself and be more confident, to look at your past achievements, to fix what you tell yourself and so on. The problem is that if even Tom Hanks feels imposter syndrome, what chance do we have? That’s why I think it is time to face the facts:
I am an imposter, and so are you.
Of course you are an imposter. You have no idea what you are capable of yet, you have unrealised dreams and skills that you are developing every day. You aren’t qualified for the job that you have, but neither is your boss or your competitor. The uncomfortable truth is that we are all imposters.
Where has imposter syndrome come from?
It used to be the case that if you wanted to create a TV show, you would need an agent with connections who could maybe get you a trial on Netflix or squeeze you into a TV channel slot. Now, Youtube is a place where TV shows are thriving, all for free.
In order to have your message heard, you used to have to somehow get yourself on to the local radio station or into the local newspaper. Any national or international coverage was unheard of. Then, blogs and podcasts came along and you are reading this, free of charge, without anyone telling me what to write for you, the reader.
In the past, people and ideas were chosen. There were gatekeepers in every industry. There still are in many cases. If you were picked, it was far less likely that you would feel like an imposter. Being chosen means feeling validated.
Now, whether you are blogging or honing your acting skills after work or are in any position where you are stepping forward and taking responsibility for yourself and your future, that’s gutsy because you aren’t being chosen. It’s gutsy because you are picking yourself. Picking yourself to be the best, most qualified person to create your own future. Which, of course, you are.
Because there are so many more instances where we are picking ourselves rather than waiting to be picked, this opens the door to frequent cases of imposter syndrome.
How to deal with the fact that you are an imposter
Sooner or later you are going to be criticised for deviating away from the status quo, for doing something unconventional and for picking yourself. Usually by a critic who has never had a statue built for them.
So how do you respond to the inevitable ‘Hey, you aren’t qualified for this!’?
Not for the first time, I think that Seth Godin has an excellent response:
Yes, you’re an imposter. So am I and so is everyone else. Superman still lives on Krypton and the rest of us are just doing our best.
Time spent fretting about our status as imposters is time away from dancing with our fear, from leading and from doing work that matters.