I first learned of imposter syndrome when I confessed my fear to my husband that I had no idea what I was doing at my job and would soon be found out and fired. I repeated this sentiment later to a trusted mentor and colleague at work who promptly burst out laughing at the ludicrousness of the idea. I smiled sheepishly, yet still in my heart I wasn’t convinced I was qualified for the job.
Self doubt plagues me, and there is nowhere I doubt myself more than at work. This is not a unique experience, by the way. I’ve talked to many professionals, both men and women, who share these feelings.
On the topic of being in charge, Anne Wilson Schaef writes:
How in the world did I get to be in charge? There must be some mistake. I don’t know what to do with this contract. I don’t know how to raise these kids. I must have misrepresented myself for “them” to believe that I knew what I was doing. I am secretly at my best when someone else has the ultimate responsibility. Who has made this terrible mistake?
Often we truly believe that there must be someone who really has it all together and knows just what to do in every situation. Where is that person anyway? Maybe we can ask the right questions and get the right information, and then no one will suspect our charade.
I know by now that I am intelligent and competent and far more capable than I give myself credit for. Still I fall into the trap of second-guessing myself at every turn, always assuming someone else knows better than I do. I constantly must remind myself that I am the expert. It comes easier now that I have several years’ worth of experience in my field, but still it takes a conscious effort.
At one time, I thought perhaps if I accomplished enough, these feelings would go away. I knew once I was selected by NASA as one of a chosen few to participate in an event and immediately wrote my success off as being due to circumstances other than my own talents that I was doomed. Well, not doomed, but certainly I will have to struggle with these feelings of inadequacy for a long, long time. Maybe forever.
The truth is none of us has any idea what we’re doing. We’re all just doing the best we can with what we have. We try to make the most informed decisions we can and learn from experience as we go. That’s all we can do, really.