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Are you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? Tell us all about it.

I never feel I’m good enough. I could always have done more. In my first job, I feared losing it for the first year, because I thought my inadequacies would be discovered. I was doing the work just fine, but I had an underlying feeling that it just wasn’t enough.

As a mother of adult children, I get praise from them for having been such a good mother, but I look back and see the things I didn’t do, or didn’t do well enough. I compare them and me to our contemporaries, and think perhaps I should have pushed them more, placed them on more sports teams, done this, that, or the other — and they might have been even better than they are!

Much of my feeling of incompetence has passed over the years; I’m much more realistic now. I realize that no one is perfect; each of us makes mistakes and hopefully learns from them. Even Donald Trump has made mistakes, but uses them positively — I don’t think he suffers from the “imposter syndrome”.

There are parents I admired twenty years ago because their kids were so accomplished. I’ve discovered that those “children”, adults now, often suffer from “imposter syndrome”, feeling that they were never successful enough at the different things they tried. One girl’s mom forced her to do lots of sports, and she was good, but she was never good enough for her mom. Even though she is now a lawyer, she still feels an unnecessary inadequacy and a need for validation. The person she needs it from most, is, of course, herself.

My experiences, though, make me wonder if “imposter syndrome” is really more of a self-image problem. In one of the articles cited, the author states: “For many “impostors,” a disjunction exists between their self-assessment and their actual abilities.” Wikipedia said that ” It is not perceived to be a mental disorder” but rather a reaction to situations. It suggests that talking about it is useful, because the “imposter” may find that there are others who feel the same way. Making a list of one’s accomplishments can also help reverse the feelings of inadequacy.

I’ve always envied people who seem to know just what to do, then go about doing it with purpose and confidence. I’ve never been that way. I question myself constantly with doubts and alternatives, so that sometimes I give up because it’s just too hard to make a decision. At this stage in life, I do know that there are some things I do well, and I’m more confident in some areas than others, but feeling of inadequacy still haunt me.

My guess is that “imposter syndrome” is more of a learned response, that is, how one is raised and nurtured makes a big difference in how a person perceives themselves and their abilities as an adult.

One piece of advice I got when I was student teaching in my 40’s was to “pretend” that I knew what I was doing. That’s actually been a big help because if I’m pretending I’m more like an actor than me. I can make decisions more dispassionately — and quickly. The point is, if I take my fears out of the equation, I probably do know what to do in most situations, and can make reasonable decisions. So, imposter or actor? Both, I think!

 

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