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There is “I” in Imposter

Have you ever accomplished something but felt undeserving of the rewards or the compliments? Have you ever felt like a fraud, afraid that someone ​would call ​your bluff?

You are not alone. We are millions. 

December 2, 2022

Imposter Syndrome Blog

The term, originally Imposter Phenomenon, comes from Psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes 1978 research. They observed that women “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments”, persist in “believing that they are not really bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise”. 

If high achieving women experienced it, could someone like me, with more than average accomplishments, share the same internal experience of phoniness?

I have earned a master’s degree. I have built a solid career in a shark-like Paris agency world with zero connection. I have left Europe to rebuild a second successful life in a place where I barely understood the language. I overcame many ​hurdles and humiliating moments to achieve successes to be celebrated.

Yet, I doubt myself every day and tirelessly aim to improve my skills and knowledge, always pursuing new challenges. ​If success arrives, I am quick to point out the errors or ​dismiss the effort. Surely, anyone could have accomplished the same or even better.

Anyone? Anyone. According to Harvard Business Review​ “from Hollywood superstars such as Charlize Theron and Viola Davis to business leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg and even former First Lady Michelle Obama and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — have confessed to experiencing it​”

If those amazing ladies have experienced Imposter Syndrome, who am I to pretend leveling up with their weaknesses? That would be presumptuous. When you are from a Catholic family like mine, ​you have learned that pride is out of reach.

Trust that if Charlize, Michele and I were on the same Syndrome boat, I would be in the machine room, apologizing for making noise, letting Michele steer the wheel and Charlize check the nautical map. I am no expert, but I am sure of that.

During my research I have found tips, some effective, to deal with doubts when making a decision, tips to help with  the awkwardness when meeting new people, ​​or the lack of confidence when facing new situations, all feelings of discomfort we quickly label “Imposter Syndrome” as if it was a medical condition, which it is not. 

The solution to dealing with Imposter Syndrome is to re-frame the narrative and change our approach. The Imposter Syndrome is a box. It is a response to a social context that values confidence over competence. 

The solution to dealing with Imposter Syndrome is to design a society that fosters a variety of learning and  leadership styles and embraces failure as a healthy path to making thoughtful decisions. Everyone we see as experts once knew nothing about their subject.

Together we can curate an ecosystem that recognizes, accepts, and celebrates diversity, an environment that doesn’t love us despite our differences but because of them.