We Are All Imposters

The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else      e.e. cummings

We are all imposters and have suffered from the Imposter Syndrome (IS).

Imposter Syndrome (IS) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I like the way Peter Ryding describes it…..”the sickening feeling that you are winging it and could get found out any minute, affects people at all levels.”

Too many studies to mention here but suffice it to say that everyone from Albert Einstein to Michelle Obama to 85% of all CEOs suffer from this debilitating mental state.

I have had so many bouts of IS, that my imposter has dejavu. 😊

Some people say they have never suffered from IS. We all know someone who is so arrogant, over-confident and lacks self-awareness. They of course are out of touch and yet feel fully entitled to their lofty positions earned through a puritanical meritocracy.

The patriarchy and White Supremacy are real things that embolden IS, disproportionately oppressing women, people of color, immigrants and anyone that is different. IS is pernicious. It is an ailment that is deeply embedded in our neural systems and is reinforced by a discriminatory environment. Embedding a fragile mindset that undermines personal and professional growth, mental health and life satisfaction.

Those of us who have been the first, the only, know about code-switching, masking, and not bringing our whole selves to our work and our lives.

But there are ways out.

Birth of Imposters

We have to understand the sources of this condition.

Our culture breeds imposters.

Consider this partial list of thoughts, ideals, rituals and practices that have contributed to the formation of your alter Imposter.

What do you want to be when you grow up? Be practical. Make money. Don’t embarrass the family.

Fake it til you make it.

The college degree charade of implied competencies

It’s not what you know it is who you know

Perfectionism/Learned helplessness

The game of writing resumes, apply/interview for jobs

Every time you say you know something you don’t. Because you don’t want to look stupid, is like buying stupid insurance for the future

Why do we buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t know.

What you wear, eat, say, your social media habits that are driven by the almighty desire to be accepted–there is a black hole of conformity that starts to suck the life and light out of you.

Conformity, regression to the mean, put you on a conveyor belt that moves you further and further from who you are and want to be. So you feel uncomfortable at best and incompetent at worst.

House of Stories

Our stories are constructed of the most banal, secondhand psychological and spiritual cliché, and you look at a beautiful, interesting face telling a story that you know doesn’t hold a candle to the life that’s secretly in there. There’s a reduction of identity to biography.  John O’Donohue

Our life is based on a true story. You know what that means when you hear it in a movie. Some of the film you are about to see is mostly not true.

My mom used to say, “I have told this story so many times, I am not sure it is true anymore.”

We start to believe the mythology. It gets ingrained into the hard drive. We say it, we think it and then it is our truth.

Our house of stories has many facades that become high rises of expectations that barely reflect the cornerstone of our true souls.

This stuff catches up with you. Falling short of the expectations of others and of your own expectations, which can be a far cry from the inner child who has not lost a dream.

IS is formed from the inside and reinforced from the outside.

So it is complex.

Shrink your Imposter

With consciousness of how IS has formed and is forming us, we can begin to extract our selves from the grips of the Imposter.

We stop playing the game all the time. We start appreciating what we are and can become. We know in our hearts we belong, and we have to listen to it.

We have to disconnect from habits, environments and relationships that are fueling our IS.

We need to find circles of mentors, colleagues, tribes and other truth tellers to help ground us in the beauty of our dreams, potential, strengths and weaknesses.

We stop caring what everyone else thinks and regain control of our own story and identity.

One of my greatest sources of inspiration is having worked with top imposter leaders in every sector. I knew that I had many opportunities to succeed.

Since everyone is an imposter, you have a chance when you wake up.

You are unique! You have so much to express. Never too late to start writing the new story, the new identity, the new life!

It must start with you. Who you are—not your job or what others have projected upon you. With the autonomy to value yourself, become yourself, to express yourself, you will come to know and embrace your worth and then your value to others will soar.

Just as much as the sequoia, the mackerel, the ocean and the planets are supposed to be here. You were born from this world. You belong here and now. Don’t let yourself or anyone else appropriate that.

Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. No one belongs here more than you. ~ Brene Brown

Thanks for reading. John

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1 thought on “We Are All Imposters”

  1. John, I have not seen something like this written about IS. Great piece! Great solutions. Now I really understand the origins of IS. I will pass this along to everyone I know. Death to IS!

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