“I’m a fraud. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds out.”
Does this sound familiar? Do you ever feel less worthy of success than everyone else in the room? Do you fear your cover could be blown? Does the success of others make you feel inferior?
You are not alone.
I have had an inferiority complex throughout my professional life. From that first temp job when I realised I was completely out of my depth, through to a board position in a recruitment consultancy – I have always felt fear, compared myself to others unfavourably and been looking over my shoulder, waiting for the arrival of the blagger police.
This particular brand of fear has a name, it’s called ‘Impostor Syndrome’ and was coined in the 1970s to describe how we can feel like frauds who do not deserve success, despite all the evidence to the contrary. People suffering from Impostor Syndrome often dismiss their success as luck, or being in the right place at the right time.
It’s an affliction particularly prevalent amongst women. However I am married to a man who feels it acutely too. For example, tonight – on the very evening when I’m am writing this piece – the hubster is at an event to celebrate the most influential men and women in his profession. He is one of the ‘power players’ (their phrase, not mine) and yet, when the invitation came, he thought there had been an administrative error.
Recently, high profile, high achievers Emma Watson and Sheryl Sandberg have both admitted that they feel like impostors, with Watson saying: “Any moment someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud – I can’t possibly live up to what everyone thinks I am.” So we’re in good company.
Now that I’m self-employed, blogging and running my own recruitment business, I’m no longer under any obligation to put myself in any vulnerable situations. I could quite happily lock myself away in my office, communicate with everyone by email, compare myself unfavourably to all my peers and quietly trundle along.
But seriously, where’s the fun in that?
I’ve written before about the slightly crazy things I’ve agreed to during the last year and there have been a few more since, news of which to follow soon.
Perhaps some of this new-found devil-may-care attitude comes with age and motherhood. I’m in my 40s and it’s hard to remain coy and bashful after the indignity of childbirth. Among my 40 plus blogging peers there is an attitude of ‘if you don’t like it, just move along’.
2016 is the year that we can all pick ourselves up again. Let’s stop comparing ourselves to other people, be proud of our successes and use fear to help us rather than letting it paralyse us.