Some days ago I was in a meeting when one of the attendants said she was feeling imposter syndrome (IS) just by being invited to be there. And I thought... welcome to the club :).
Next to that, I keep having some recurring conversations with a couple of very good friends of mine who - IMHO - are prone to feel it.
Anyway, I don't see any of them as imposters... and the more it goes, the more I feel this syndrome can become a self-imposed limitation, and that sucks.
I also have (or have had) imposter syndrome (I wasn't good enough to work in Microsoft, how could I teacher an O'Reilly online live training? why am I in this meeting surrounded with all these gurus? ...), but through the experience I have trained myself to ignore it most of the times it triggers (the trigger is still there).
These are my reasons in favour of ditching IS altought... who am I to be talking about this topic ;).
Time will tellTo put it simply, my expectation is that if you are a real imposter the environment will realize and put you in the right place. And again and a again, I've been in imposter-felt situations and then reality hasn't put me where I was expecting to be put afterwards so... what if you are not an imposter?
I recall when I was hired by Microsoft I felt a lot of times as all my colleagues were way better than me. It took me a good dose of 1-1s and feedback from my peers to gain awareness of where I was sitting. I even got promoted after my first year and it kinda felt silly, feeling like not being good enough to end up promoting.
It's not only on you
If someone is asking you to do something or inviting you to participate somewhere, they are your partners in crime. They made a judgement and considered you valid so... there must be something you have done well to deserve the invite.
Even in the case you are the one proposing , if they are accepting it means they trust you (as long as there were no lies or information hiding) in your proposal.
If what you are about to do is way out of your league, hopefully somebody (probably a good friend) will step up and let you know - and most probably they'll do it in an educated fashion if you are working in a healthy environment.
Going back to Microsoft, I was good enough to pass the interviews, and they made me the offer, there was awareness on their side. Same with the O'Reilly trainings, I made a proposal and they accepted it.
Still, if you persist in feeling the syndrome, try with this catch 22: if you are an impostor, you should trust their expert opinion, and if they don't consider you an impostor you are not an impostor.
Potential outcomesNow, let's take a look from a probabilistic point of view at the situations where IS arises. What's the worse that can happen?
If you take it from a learning perpective, most of the times when you feel like an imposter is because you are getting out of your comfort zone - one of the best places to learn. Setting ourselves in those "win or learn" deals is something we all should be striving for.
If we reduce it to the absurd, the real worst that can happen is that you become a Dunning-Kruger, and most of the ones I've met are pretty successful (in their way), so I wouldn't say it's such a bad alternative.
Awareness of who are we comparing us toMost of us grow professionally thanks to excellent professionals who inspire us. Those professionals took the time and dedication to write a book or prepare a talk, plus all the work we don't see to be knowledgeable enough to prepare those materials. Of course if we compare ourselves to them we are imposters (or so I feel), but it's not an all or nothing, there are some shades of knowledge inbetween.
Self limiting shameImposter syndrome is all in our heads. It's only on ouselves, so if it ever becomes a limitation to you, be aware that it's a self-imposed limitation. And it's never cool not to do something you'd probably like just because you cancelled yourself.
Because maybe everybody's feels itRead this wonderful anecdote from Neil Gaiman and there's not much to add here... if even they have it, why couldn't we have it? (dunno, maybe it even has some evolutive reason to be there...)
Why should I surrender to Imposter Syndrome?We all deserve the right to try (and fail)
Be humble and eager to learn from setbacks, accept there will be wins and losses and enjoy the ride, it will probably be more exciting in the long term.
Have a nice day,
Credits: Thanks to Mireia, my wife, for an inspiring and challenging conversation today about defining limits in relationships and with kids, there's a part of that conversation in this post 😘