Thursday, January 9, 2014

Faking It, and Somehow, Making It

Have you heard about the concept of "imposter syndrome?" According to Wikipedia, the term was first coined in 1978, but surely the authors of the original article knew that one year old me was going to be aspiring to success someday, and they created the concept to be all about how I feel on any given day. Here's the synopsis:

"The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be."

I've talked about feeling this way before, in a post where I wholeheartedly attribute my career success to luck and timing. That post was written less than a year ago, and while I still acknowledge that luck and timing helped a lot, I also realize I was cutting myself short. But that's honestly how I felt, and feel even now.

I'm trying to change that though. My friend Liz is hosting a panel coming up soon as part of the promotion for her book, and she asked me to be part of the panel. The event is for an Emerging Leaders Program at UMass Boston, and upon receiving the invitation, I paused. Aren't I still an emerging leader myself? What would I really have to say about anything at all? I'm only entering my...


Fifteenth year in the workplace. And for the past ten of those years, I've also been a parent. And Liz must think I'm capable, because I think the world of her and so I can't be a total waste of time. Perhaps this is the tipping point. I still think I have a lot to learn, but maybe I have things to teach and share, too.

Meanwhile, there's Listen To Your Mother Boston eating up tidbits of my time each day, and it is so, so fun. I've never done anything like producing a show before, and yet, it doesn't feel all that scary. Of course, having the backbone of the national organization, two Facebook groups and two amazing teammates doesn't hurt at all, but I also feel like I'm making things up as I go and that's totally okay. Everyone I've dealt with so far has been kind and supportive of this new endeavor. I'm sure there will be discouraging moments along the way too, but I don't feel like they will make me doubt my capabilities. That's certainly something.

What about you? Do you ever feel like an imposter, or how have you gotten past it?


  1. Yup. Every day. Especially since I left the field I got my graduate degree in and I've watched my classmates go on to fancy jobs and professorships. It's weird how quickly I vacillate from feeling extremely competent to absolutely useless. But faking it is something I know I can do.

  2. I'm very familiar with imposter syndrome. Less so in recent years because I'm truly underemployed, but have felt it many times. What I find interesting are the gender differences. I'm not saying men never experience it, but if memory serves, women have it more than men. Particularly white, middle class women. There must be something culturally in the way girls/women are socialized that encourages it. Humility is good, but I'm hoping my own daughter is not afraid to trust her own capabilities in the ways I was never able to. --Kate