I Feel Like an Imposter… And Why That’s a Good Thing!

If you’ve ever felt like an imposter or like your “fraud” was on the verge of being “exposed”, then you’re not alone. You’re experiencing a very common and widespread phenomenon called “Imposter Syndrome”.

“How did I end up doing this… I really should let someone else – with more experience – write this article… Who am I to tell the world how to achieve any goal or dream?”

“I bet the ‘fraud police’ is going to figure me out… and I’m certain that, at any point now, they’re going to come knocking on my door, exposing me for the fraud I am.”

Have you ever felt like a fraud? You’re at a meeting or some other setting where you’re trying to portray utter professionalism, but in truth you’re winging it and you’re realizing with a creeping dread that everyone is about to find out?

I clearly remember the first time I was introduced to the concept of ‘feeling like a fraud/imposter’. It wasn’t my own personal experience (I was still too young for that kind of emotions and insecurities) but instead my sister shared her feelings and insecurities with me.

In the early 2000nd, my sister gained some success as a singer in a small girl group. And, as the pressure of success slowly increased, she began to experience the feeling of “today, they’re all going to realize that I can’t sing, and that I’m a fraud”.

I remember thinking to myself, how strange that insecurity was… Why in the world did she think and feel that way? To me, and the people around her, it was obvious that she was a great and gifted singer. Who would expose her for being an imposter when there was nothing to expose?

It wasn’t until later in life that I really began understanding what my sister was referring to. When I first got the “pleasure” of feeling like a fraud, it was at a time where I was highly invested and wanted to prove my worth, and I wanted to excel at the highest level…

The key word here is: I was INVESTED.

It was about 1.5 years after graduating from College and I’d landed my first paying job as an architect. I’d seen the beauty of success and was beginning to see proof of my hard work… but, the feeling that I was betraying my colleagues and my boss slowly began to sneak in…

“One day, they’re going to smell the grove, realize that I’m creating success out of pure luck, and it’s going to be painfully obvious that I don’t really know what I’m doing.”

The fear of being exposed isn’t just something unique to my family, in fact it’s a well-known phenomenon that affects different people, in different positions, at all levels…

Imposter Phenomenon… A phrase first coined in the 1970s by Dr. Pauline Rose Clance and Dr. Susan Imes

You might have experienced feeling like an imposter and you might even suffer from it right now, convinced that you’re the only one feeling this way?

But the truth is you’re far from the only sufferer. As it turns out, the imposter phenomenon lurks in the minds of well-known authors, artists, musicians, businesspeople, presidents and even brain surgeons.

“Part of you knows you’re not as good as you’re pretending to be,” says Henry Marsh, a neurosurgeon and author of the memoir Do No Harm.

“But you have to come across as being relatively competent and confident.”

For some of us it’s an ever-present fear, and you just can’t shake the feeling that your role of fooling people, is about to end abruptly.

Author Frances Hardinge won the 2015 Costa Book of the Year Award for her novel The Lie Tree – but still, she says, with every new project, there’s a “part of my brain that tells me that this is the book… where I disappoint everybody, and people see me for the fraud I am.”

The underlying fear, says artist and musician Amanda Palmer, “is that someone’s going to come knocking at the door.

“I call these fictional people the Fraud Police, and they’re just going to tell you: ‘We figured it out, and we’re taking it all away.'”

More women than men

Even though the feeling of being fraudulent can hit both men and women, it’s long been noted that women experience the imposter syndrome more frequent and acute than men… Perhaps it’s a product of a society that rewards boys for boasting while urging girls to be more modest, or maybe it’s because of pre-existing sexist stereotypes that call women’s professional competence into question?

According to impostor expert Dr. Valerie Young, women are more likely to explain setbacks and failures as resulting from their lack of ability, while men are more prone to blame outside factors.

The real relief

Even though feeling like a fraud is an unwanted and unpleasant feeling, it’s a sign that you are highly competent and that you have the ability to improve on yourself and your life. Feeling like a fraud is just a sign that you are moving yourself out of your comfort zone and taking risks.

No one is born with the ability to do and know everything going into a new challenge. Therefore, we need to prepare, learn new, allow a degree of “faking it” and trust that the outcome will turn out ok.

The real relief isn’t in mastering your imposter syndrome or defeating it, the true relief lies in knowing that those who claim they’ve never felt like a fraud, are those who we should really worry about.

The truth is that ultra-confident people may just be too incompetent to know just how incompetent they are.

The truly incompetent, in short, rarely worry about being truly incompetent.

Less energy

Knowing that the imposter syndrome is a good sign, a sign that you are competent and capable of creating success, you can begin to use less negative energy worrying about the outcome and instead focus more on the process of creating the success.

What is your experience with feeling like a fraud and does this article change your view going forward? Leave a comment below.

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