I was reading an article yesterday about Impostor Syndrome, which is the constant feeling that maybe you’re not as talented or knowledgeable as people think you are. I suppose the simplest way to describe it is chronic self-doubt. It also describes how I feel almost every day and is a fairly common condition.
Many talented and successful people in all sorts of areas, whether creative or technical, often believe that they’re not really that good at what they do and only got as far as they did through luck or other factors that fell in their favor. There’s always the lingering fear that one day they’ll be revealed as frauds and derided by their peers.
While the condition, in its strictest sense, applies to successful people who don’t fully enjoy their success, I think we all feel like impostors to some extent. Speaking for myself, on most days I feel like a lost kid just making his way through the world, creating the illusion that I’m a fully functioning adult. Having taken the (still fairly recent) decision to become a writer full time, I’m plagued by the nagging idea that maybe that was a mistake. Maybe I’m just a hack whose inability to paint pictures with words will become apparent soon enough, if it hasn’t already.
Back in college, as I’ve mentioned in some previous posts, I took up karate. It quickly became a passion of mine and I climbed my way up to earning a black belt, which came with a lot of responsibility. I was a senior member of my karate club and an assistant instructor. I hoped I could inspire new students to love the craft as much as I did, and give some of my peers a different perspective, but I couldn’t help thinking that I didn’t belong there. My own instructor and fellow assistant instructors knew what they were talking about while I was just throwing out words and concepts I was familiar with so that I seemed more like what a black belt should be.
I can describe similar situations in all aspects of my life, including my current job and my blogging, where I feel like I’m not measuring up to what people might expect from me, but they’re being kind enough to look the other way for now.
It ultimately creates a fear of failure, as the smallest slip-up could cause everything to unravel. Maybe that one tiny error will reveal me for the fraud I am.
Perhaps the one solace I can take form this is that I’m not alone. We’re all impostors, pretending that we’re not just ad libbing through life.