This syndrome has visibly manifested itself so many times in the past couple of weeks — in my own head, but also in the head of people I care about. For me, it occurred when I was meeting someone who was twenty years my senior, was the owner a 4-scroll long Wikipedia page, and had birthed thousands of social entrepreneurs over his lifetime. I was barely an entrepreneur, let alone a social entrepreneur?
Independently, and that same week, I received this email from a younger friend of mine:
And then a few days later:
Finally, yesterday an insanely creative, talented and kind individual stated she felt “impostor syndrome” because English was not her first language.
In each of these examples the “impostor” feels a lack of worth relative to the other person — typically resulting from a perceived gulf in “success” (how that is defined is an entirely separate post), age (highly correlated with success), but even more nuanced attributes such as language and presence.
Let’s return to our definition:
It’s pretty evident that in all of these examples, pretending to be someone else in order to deceive the other couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Furthermore, what struck me is that in two of these instances I was on the “welcoming side” of said Impostor. And not once did that thought cross my mind. Not because I’m special, but because that label was purely a construct within said Impostor’s own mind.
It reminds me of an Invisibilia podcast of a woman who could not feel fear because of a calcified Amygdala (from Rad Reads 53). She had been robbed three times (once at knife point, twice at gun point) but was miraculously never hurt. The incredible thing is that she never felt any trauma. Her inability to feel fear resulted in those terrifying events flowing away.
It’s an extreme comparison to feeling like an Impostor, but reinforces the point that it’s a construct in our own minds. If we can let go of it, we let go of the ensuing “trauma.”
When you label yourself as an Impostor, you are judging — more specifically Self Judging. Inverting the feeling would result in entering the meeting believing that you were Awesome, which wouldn’t happen either — that’s arrogance. The inner dialogue would never be “I am Awesome” nor would it be “I am an Impostor.”
It should be “I am.”
Avoiding Self-Judgement is being Kind to ourselves. And by just Being we become unconstrained, ready to Soar.
Let’s drop that self judgement. Abandon the unnecessary mental construct. Burn the label. No one is an Impostor. We are friends, acquaintances, colleagues, partners, and even strangers. But no one is an Impostor.
Khe is the curator of Rad Reads — Five groovy and expansive articles delivered every Saturday morning. Join us by subscribing here!