Impostor Syndrome nearly broke me once.
In the first month of returning to full-time work after raising kids for seven years, I had two pretty big successes. I wrote and published two articles, on wildly different topics. The first one was republished by Newsweek. The second garnered a serious mention in The Guardian.
My co-workers were thrilled for me. My bosses were incredibly pleased. I, on the other hand, spent a lot of quality time crying.
These people didn’t know that I had no idea what I was doing, that this attention, these successes, were all complete flukes. Why should anybody have paid attention to what I have to say about anything? I wasn’t an expert on these things. Heck, I don’t even have a college degree! And now there was this spotlight that felt impossibly bright focused on clueless ol’ me so now everyone would know that I was just a faker, a fraud. Any moment, someone was going to realize this fact and say, “Hey, wait a minute! She’s not anybody special!”
That’s what it felt like, anyway. I’m anxious just remembering it.
But it’s a weird thing, Impostor Syndrome. Sometimes it lies, yes. Certainly, not every accomplishment is due to luck. But sometimes it’s true. Being able to recognize which is which takes a certain amount of self-awareness that isn’t easy to come by.
I really did feel like I didn’t deserve those early successes I mentioned. And the truth of it is that I probably didn’t. But nobody else seemed to know that. I didn’t want them ever to know that. So I took that feeling of not being worthy and channeled it into making myself worthy.
I worked as hard as I could to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, shore up the weak spots in my skill sets, and better myself as a person so that if/when the time came that someone did take that closer look at me, they wouldn’t find the faults.
Ideally, I’d like to be able to recognize when Impostor Syndrome is lying to me. I’d like to be confident enough in myself and my abilities that I know I deserve everything I accomplish. But until then, I’ll use that voice of doubt to push myself to become better than I was before.