Imposter Syndrome

Albert Einstein:

The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease.

I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern which causes us to doubt our accomplishments or talents, and internalise a fear of being exposed as a fraud.

I'm out of my depth.

I'm a fraud.

What if they find out?

Imposter syndrome isn't a fear of failure, but a deep-seated feeling that we're getting away with something, and that one day somebody will figure it out, and that it'll all be over. We feel entrenched in a situation, but know that we're out of our depth.

Toxic relationships

Toxic relationships embed a feeling of not being deserving of our position:

  • In education, teachers and trainers enforce a learner vs educator divide; asserting dominance. At no point are we told we're qualified and ready to relay our knowledge to others.
  • When we look up to heroes we often do so without understanding their journey to where they are.
  • We tie worthiness to success, feeling uneasy accepting our validity, ignoring the many other factors at play.

Teaching isn't creating something new

Few teachers actively create new knowledge: repackaging existing knowledge in a different context for a different audience is valuable in itself. Making information accessible to others lifts everyone up.

Teaching is the exercise of sharing knowledge and experience. You may find comfort in simple logic: if there's a birth rate, there are certainly people who know less than you. From a moral perspective, especially if you've been helped, you have an obligation to help others.

You don't need to be an expert in all things.

Diversity of thought

Our distinct backgrounds grant everyone unique perspectives. These perspectives are valuable, and sharing them informs others' decision making. Different perspectives, especially those that contradict the norm, are worth sharing: diversity of thought helps to avoid us overlooking details.

You should be at that table.

You should ask that question.

There's a good chance you're not the only one thinking it.

Success isn't the solution

Imposter Syndrome doesn't clear with success.

We have to stop thinking of ourselves as only apprentices, learners, viewers or consumers.

We're doing something right

What defines success?

  • Do you want to be someone others look up to?
  • Do you want to impress others?
  • What about being a role model for others?
  • Or paying it forward?

It's rooted in fear

Imposter syndrome is rooted in fear, and it can be managed through creation of psychologically safe workspaces:

  • Offer humbly, being a voice, not an authority. It allows you to ask questions, and it's harder for others to come down hard on you.
  • Acknowledge humility by thanking people for showing vulnerability.
  • Pay it forward: be vulnerable.

Lifelong learning

Lifelong learning is only one side of the story: be both a lifelong learner and lifelong teacher. Recognise that masters of a craft aren't necessarily experts: it's possible to be successful without being all-knowing.

Everything you've got is worth sharing. Masters are the ones who lift up other people.

Confidence is knowing what you know. Arrogance is thinking you know something, and misrepresenting yourself: acknowledge incomplete context and perspective.

Partial information is more valuable than silence.

Confidence is brave.