Imposter Syndrome (SoGv2 - 52)

Imposter Syndrome (SoGv2 - 52)

Hello! Evening!

Pop Quiz
What is common to Albert Einstein, Neil Gaiman, Neil Armstrong, Maya Angelou, Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, and even Social Scientists?
All of them believed that at some point in time in their lives that they suffered from Imposter Syndrome!

And that ladies and gents, is the thing for the day!

Imposter Syndrome.

So, what is it?
Before that, lemme tell you a story.

Let's talk about this hypothetical person, Amit (because, probably the most common name in India). Amit is about 15 years out of business school and works at an MNC and has risen fast and gets daily accolades from tons of people for his work. Travels the world for work, gets respect in his community, has a loving family. In one life, he is living the Indian Dream!

But because Bindu (not the most common name, but a name that starts from B) is doing better than Amit (same pedigree, same work, and yet higher rank than Amit), Amit is miserable.

On a standalone basis, Amit is doing fantastic. He is the first guy in his family to have reached a point where he has two houses, two cars, two kids, two servants, two sources of passive income streams et al. But is miserable because he sees others doing better than him.

You see the problem here?

You could call this phenomenon a lot of things (competitive insecurity, divinely discontent, stress, self-esteem issues, anxiety, insecurity, etc) but I believe Amit’s story is the best example of Imposter Syndrome. Amit believes that he does not deserve all the things he's got!

And that ladies and gents, is Imposter Syndrome. While we are it, see this cartoon as well.

So, what is it, really?
Wikipedia says Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud”. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

Ok, that was too scientific and verbose. To me, an imposter is someone who pretends to be someone that he is not.

Extrapolate to our example of Amit and Imposter Syndrome is thus the feeling that achievers (people who’ve done a lot) get when they doubt their capabilities about their achievements. They feel like outsiders, frauds, imposters. They feel that they don't deserve all the accolades that they are being showered on. They are anxious and fearful that they will get caught someday and everything they have will be taken away.

Why is it important to know of?
A. It is apparently very prevalent in a lot of high-achieving people around me. All the Amits I know deserve all the success and fame and they've worked hard for it. And every time I try to tell them that they need to get out of the clouds of sadness around them, they have eloquent answers to describe how they don't deserve the success. Of course, some Chirags got lucky.

B. Social Media has made us a lot of Amit-ish. We constantly question our achievements. We look at glitzy life of others on SM (specifically Instagram and Facebook) and often lament about how our lives are drab and everyone else seems to be traveling the world and holidaying at fancy places and have happy, healthy kids et al. We can't see the point that SM has been designed to induce jealousy. Plus, while we see neverending photos of people enjoying their lives, we miss seeing that these are the best posts from various people (and not one) in one stream. No one person can be on such a dopamine-induced fog unless you are Dan.

C. Apart from just Bindu and Chirag, Amit sees almost everyone in his apartment complex, in his office, in his gym, in his club, in his WhatsApp groups and everywhere else enjoying their lives. While their lives are glitzier than Amit, Amit forgets that from the lens of his 4domestic helps (nanny, driver, cook, etc), his life is glitzy af! No wonder, in comparison is all misery.

The antidote to the Imposter Syndrome?
I am no expert on this but I think the best way to get out of this constant competition and rat race is to maintain a journal and evaluate if you are better than what you were yesterday.

The question you need to ask yourself is, do you spend each day bettering yourself and your skills? See this simple equation...

So, rather than talking to various people and getting jealous of what they do and considering yourself as a fraud, how about comparing yourself of today to yourself of yesterday? And if you see a tangible improvement, voila!

Apart from this, these are some things that have been proven to help overcome it. See...

1. Talk about it!
To someone senior to you that is independent and is not invested in you. It will help get an unbiased opinion. If you are good, they will tell you so. And if you are not, you will know that you are lucky and then you start enjoying life :D.

In fact, do this often. Impostering is not something that you would do once and find a fix to. It can happen from time to time!

2. Try and seek positive feedback!
Every small positive thing matters. Go gather those. Make a scrapbook where you put all those certificates and accolades there. See it every day.

3. Get a perpetual cheerleader, someone that lives in your head.
In this TED talk, Lou talks about how a radical hero could continue to cheer you for every small thing that you achieve! You know that voice in your head? Create this positive voice in your head. Every time you need positive reinforcement, reach out to this positive voice and chat up.

Or maybe, keep a "Hype File" (as Marie says) - as the name says, a scrapbook of sorts where you stick the best comments that you get.

4. Know that others are as vulnerable.
One of my mentors would say, "sab ki life me lassi hai". And that means that everyone is like us. Human. With same insecurities and issues and problems and all that. So the ones that look unbreakable to you (all the Bindus, Chirags and others) are as breakable. And they have their demons. The way you are scared and don't talk about it, what if they are as scared and not talk about it?

And you know who else suffered from it? Albert, Michelle, Maya, Tom and... Amit! And maybe Bindu, Chirag, et al! The point is, you may get as successful as you desire, you will still have that lingering feeling, once in a while. As Rita said, it is a human condition! The magic is in going back to the cheerleader in your head and celebrating the success. And not question yourself!

5. Try and learn from it!
Accept that your self-doubt is creeping from your inability to grasp at things. And thus, maybe you push yourself and learn those things? At least I am inspired by this! Probably explains my curiosity...

6. Why do you care?
Last but not least, if you do think that you are suffering from the imposter syndrome, either way (you deserve it or you don't), you are doing pretty good for yourself. And till the time someone pulls you down, why not enjoy the view from the top? After all, it must be pretty up there. No? Remember, someone said, we suffer more in imagination than in reality!

Oh, and, what happens to Amit?
Because Amit is miserable in the head about being a loser when compared to his peers, he starts to think of himself as an Imposter. He starts thinking that his ideas are not good enough and thus he stops contributing. He keeps thinking about it all the time! And this consistent, nagging, tingling feeling in his head about being an imposter eventually starts to hurt his ability to focus. And that, in turn, affects his ability to work. Which in turn makes him lose the spark he had. And he eventually becomes a non-performer. Thus with time, his fears about being an imposter come true! He is fired, the wife starts to crib, the kids get unhappy, parents get distressed and so on and so forth.

Life goes down a spiral that he always feared. And then he justifies it to his best friend, Divya (another fictional name) about how he was right all along that he did not deserve to there!

Sounds familiar?

Thank you for reading!

Here's to the imposters in you and I :)
Till next time,
Started writing this on Monday night and took the whole of Tuesday and Wednesday to be able to finish this. Hope this is worth your time!

PS: I often feel that the life I live is of an imposter. Just that I don't really have any achievements that I could bask in the glory of. I pretend that I know a lot but I routinely get challenged by people and things and ideas and I don't know how to respond to those.

PPS: I got this feeling of being an imposter just yesterday. I got this VERY hard-hitting feedback from someone I care about (I don’t know the identity - the person responded to an email that I sent to a handful of people and left anonymous feedback on this form) and while it is super harsh, s/he is right. So, maybe I am an imposter.

The actions that I am taking include getting a LOT less self-indulgent and stop talking so much about me. And henceforth, these emails will not talk about me, unless absolutely necessary.

If you are the one who left that comment, please do note that I have taken them with a stride and will work on those, including things that I have not mentioned here. Thanks so so much for that comment.

PPPS: Thanks to the feedback from this anonymous person, I realized that I like in this bubble and I need to step out of this. May I PLEASE ask you to talk to me in all honesty about what you think of me? This form is an anonymous way of reaching me.

PPPPS: Today is 73rd Independence Day for us Indians. There was a time when I was super proud of my motherland. Not anymore. Long story. But if you are the kinds to celebrate Congratulations! Hope you work towards the betterment of the country. And the question you need to ask yourself is, Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par Wo Kahan Hain.

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TAGS: Failure, Personal, Imposter Syndrome, Career, Life, Mental Health

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