Notes on Imposter Syndrome: How to Stop It From Ruining Your Life
This is a post I’ve tried to write so many times before.
So it’s typical that even as I type this, I have that little voice in my head saying “Are you really in a position where you’re actually qualified to talk about this subject?” Well, technically no, but seeing as this voice has plagued me for the majority of my life, I’m going to go ahead and write it anyway.
I’m sure you know which voice I’m talking about. The one that tells you you’re not good enough. That everything you do sucks. It questions why you should ever bother doing things like showering, or leaving your house. According to it, you’re never going to know “real” success (whatever that word actually means) and you should just give up now.
I’m talking of course, about Imposter Syndrome.
If you don’t know what Imposter Syndrome is, you’re one of the lucky 30% of human beings who don’t suffer from it and I am a little bit jealous of you. The rest of us are all too familiar with it. It’s the feeling that you’ve somehow cheated your way to where you are in life – that you’ve happened on this place through pure luck or privilege. Definitely not based on anything like “hard work” and “talent”. ESPECIALLY NOT TALENT – IT ISN’T FOR THE LIKES OF US.
You’re a fraud. And one day everyone is going to find out. And they will hate you.
I’ve been plagued by Imposter Syndrome my entire life. I often wonder where it first stemmed from. I think a lot of it has to do with culture, particularly coming from a country like Australia. Australia, New Zealand and the UK are notorious for a concept known as Tall Poppy Syndrome (what’s with all these syndromes, seriously?). In this, if you are perceived to be successful or have genuine merit, rather than held in awe, you will be attacked and/or criticised.
I think the Brits handle it quite differently to how we do – their entire psyche is deep rooted in self-deprecation. Australia on the other hand, loves an underdog and there is a certain respect for humility. Anyone who is seen as getting too big for their britches will be mercilessly and brutally cut down.
Although the special snowflake syndrome, which is quite prevalent in my own Generation Y goes some way to combat this (and brings with it, its own myriad of problems!), it’s deeply rooted into our culture and I think it will take quite a few more generations to shake it off, if that ever happens in its entirety.
I know my own Imposter Syndrome settled in sometime during high school. I peaked early in my academic career (at around age 9 or 10, not recommended) and quickly figured out I could get by quite easily, whilst doing the bare minimum of work. As the years passed, my marks steadily dropped and by the time I woke up to myself, it was too late to turn things around. High schools love people who excel at things – sports and academia, then art, if you were lucky. My one strength has always been making stuff up, better known as creative writing. I’m also a speed reader and can clap my hands together faster than anyone I know – these talents can only get you so far in life.
On top of this, and maybe it’s just me, but I always seem to make friends with overachievers. Seriously. My closest friends in high school (and now) regularly duxed subjects or the entire year, were artistic geniuses, could get through a P.E. class without running into a wall and near on knocking themselves out (guilty as charged), became school captain and were well-liked by everyone. I always felt like I was the bumbling sidekick – the Jar Jar Binks to their Anakin, the Willow to their Buffy, the Garth to their Wayne. DON’T WORRY. I’M OVER IT NOW.
I’m telling you all of this somewhat embarrassing history of mine, because I know for a fact that many of my brilliant friends later confessed to feeling exactly the same way that I did. Whilst being handed every accolade that society could possibly come up with, they stood there thinking “It’s only a matter of time before they all realise just how stupid I am.”
Imposter Syndrome left me alone for a few years, then reared its ugly head again, when I started this blog. Blogging is SCARY. You’re putting your work and often your thoughts out there for everyone and anyone to read. And we all know the Internet – or rather human beings, like to judge. Suddenly, you’re at risk of your own worst nightmare – every single dark thought you’ve had about yourself and your own abilities manifesting in the form of comments, emails and tweets. The pressure can be all too much.
Imposter Syndrome is in a word, stupid. I know this. You hopefully know this. And it shouldn’t stand in the way of our wants and desires. Our dreams. Or even just our hobbies.
It’s been at its worst for me, when it comes to video editing – which is what I happen to do full-time, to earn my bread and butter. I’ve long wanted to make videos for this blog, but… well, I’ve been nervy about it. This is despite thinking about doing it for OVER A YEAR.
Why, why, WHY?! Well, there are a few reasons. One is that because I do this for a living, I know exactly how much work goes into making a video. I already bust my bottom off writing two posts a week (and some weeks I can’t even achieve that), editing photos, doing ALL THE SOCIAL MEDIA WHICH TAKES UP SO MUCH TIME, WHY?! and creating the drawings that have began sneaking their way into this blog. This is my passion project, but it eats up a lot of my time.
Yet, that’s not all of it. Oh my, the excuses that have entered my head every single time I’ve thought seriously about doing this.
“I can’t shoot properly, so they won’t be any good.”
“Nobody will watch them, so what’s the point?”
“What if people judge me for them? I don’t know if I can handle it. My nerves are delicate enough as is!”
And you know what all these excuses are? They are codswallop.
THAT’S RIGHT. CODSWALLOP. THAT’S A WORD THAT PEOPLE NEED TO INCORPORATE MORE INTO THEIR VERNACULAR.
Yeah. My first few videos probably will be cruddy. Maybe no one will watch them. Maybe people will judge me. But one day, I will produce one that I actually like. And others may even like it, which would be nice. But the fact that I will actually be proud of something that I did, will be the most important thing of all – after the fact that I finally got out there and did it.
Today, I bit the bullet. I decided that I’m going to aim to publish a video on YouTube every second Friday. And though the weather was dank and dark, I wasn’t happy with the lighting or my hair and I truly believe that the camera adds four kilos seemingly mostly to my face, I shot and edited a video. You can watch it below and even subscribe to my channel, if you like. I’ll be posting videos on a range of topics (much like this blog!) – mostly about sustainable travel and green living, destination guides and the odd observation on life.
So, how do you beat Imposter Syndrome? I don’t think there’s any easy way about it. You just have to grit your teeth and do the thing you’re most scared of. It’s been baby steps, for me. I was scared of putting my writing out there – now it’s second nature. I’m equally as terrified of putting my actual face out into the world, but it’ll get less daunting as time goes on. I hope.
In summary, don’t let Imposter Syndrome hold you back in life. Don’t waste too much time thinking you’re not good enough.
Because you are. And usually, the only one who is holding you back from doing the things you want to do… is you.
Do you suffer from Imposter Syndrome? Empathy coming your way, my friend.