Recently I discovered that for most of my life I’ve been living the belief and the lie of the “Imposter Syndrome.” Recognizing this has been a necessary part of my personal transformation of metaphorically going through the chrysalis from the caterpillar to the butterfly. This is the same journey I believe we must make collectively in our culture if we are going to have the world that so many people say they want.
The “Imposter Syndrome” is a deep down belief that you’re a phony, a fake, and a fraud, even with plenty of evidence to the contrary. It’s a pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or of being an inadequate and incompetent failure in the face of evidence indicating that you’re skilled and quite successful. It’s a fundamental, persistent fear of being found out or unmasked. It often affects individuals who appear successful and smart.
Achievers often feel like so far they’ve made it under wraps, but the day will come when their cover is blown and they will be revealed as a fake. Often they feel that they don’t deserve their job and accomplishments, or they discount their achievements as not being “real” or attribute them to luck or hard work.
Have you experienced anything like this? If so, please know that you’re not alone!
I was surprised to find out there is a lot of writing and research about this belief and experience. I was also surprised to find out I’m not alone. I (and perhaps you?) have lots of company. Here are some well-known ones:
¨ Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud.”
¨ John Steinbeck: “I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.”
¨ Actress Jodie Foster: “I always feel like something of an imposter. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
¨ Dr. Chan, Chief of the World Health Organization: “There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.”
¨ Michelle Pfeifer: “I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m really not very good. It’s all been a big sham.”
¨ Kate Winslett: “Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.”
¨ Maya Angelou: “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ “
¨ Seth Godin wrote in The Icarus Deception that after a dozen best sellers he still feels like a fraud.
¨ Studies suggest that 70% of people experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career.
So I realized that most of my life I have been living the lie of believing that I’m an imposter. This discovery led me on an intensive quest for more than 20 years to “find myself”. As I’ve learned how to accomplish and contribute from my authenticity, I have made progress with this, and I’m not finished yet!
Our culture increasingly expresses messages that being a phony, fake, and fraud is normal and expected. That’s a pervasive story and a lie. It’s the water we’re all swimming in and that we often accept as being “just the way it is,” yet it is still a lie.
I see our culture beginning to transform as a result of individuals making this journey. In my experience with living through this, it is not a pretty picture or an easy process, and yet it is absolutely the most life-giving, worthwhile thing we can do.
If any of these experiences seem familiar or strike a chord with you, please contact me. It would be my joy to support you with clarity and empowerment to make the shift, live more authentically and alive, and be the change you want to see in the world.