No Impostors Here

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A week ago, when I attended the Opportunity Conference to get help in the fight against poverty, I got connected with Nassandra, a young woman who has fought her way through it and has achieved educational goals I stopped dreaming about a while ago. We exchanged phone numbers, connected on Facebook, and scheduled a meeting for next week to discuss the things that have gotten in the way of me pursuing the education and credentials that we all believe will help bring an end to the cycle of poverty in my life.

I had forgotten that I’d told her about my blog. So, when she contacted me yesterday and told me that she’s read some of what I’ve been writing, that I’m a great writer, better than grad students she knows, I was floored. It was gratifying but at the same time, I wound up undermining it and said this:

Wow, Nassandra. Thank you so much. Writing is what I want to do, but my research tells me I need a degree to actually be employed as a writer.

Basically, even though I’ve been writing this blog for a year and a half, have gained more than a small handful of regular readers, and been asked to contribute my writing to a couple of other endeavors, I still – underneath it all – have difficulty accepting that others see me as a writer. I feel the need to qualify and clarify because I don’t want to be seen as if I’m presenting myself as something I’m not.

That was when she shared this:

“Often people (especially women) who have been or are in poverty have a very hard time internalizing any accomplishments. . . sometimes referred to as imposter syndrome.

I had never heard of it, but I did recognize it in myself, so I did some research.

According to Tara Kuther, PhD. Impostor Syndrome “is feeling that one hasn’t earned his or her achievements – that the achievements are the result of luck. It is very common among high achieving persons…” (About.com Graduate School – “What is the Impostor Syndrome”)

The Counseling Center at CalTech explains it this way:

Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.

This inner sense that nothing a person achieves and accomplishes truly was earned or belongs to that person – that his/her gifts, talents, skills and strengths aren’t real and don’t matter can have devastating consequences in academic, professional, and personal lives.

People who are driven to succeed and appear incapable of celebrating an achievement before diving in and pursuing the next goal may be suffer from this. Others may be uncomfortable with and dismissive of compliments. Some may develop a front of bravado and superiority, acting as if they have all the answers all the time, needing to be the authority or “go to” person.

It is even possible that this inner sense of being an impostor can cause a person to stop achieving to his or her potential out of the stress and tension from worry and fear that their imagined fakery and inabilities will be discovered and so as not to be placed under too much scrutiny he or she may avoid applying or competing for jobs, grants, and scholarships.

The correlations between a childhood where emotional and psychological abuse and/or neglect, in either the home or other social environments, and where poverty, conflict and struggle to survive exist may all play a role, as indicated in this article where case studies of two successful men who struggle with Impostor Syndrome are detailed.

A recent example where that sense of, “If they only knew the REAL me, they wouldn’t say those things about me,” happened while I was participating in the June 28 Days To A New Me accountability group. As my final entry of the month, I posted this:

Day 28 – Team Pride

It was a very challenging month. Thankful to have been participating in this group because these have been the kinds of things that have led to me giving up on hopes, goals, and dreams in the past. Now, partially thanks to the lessons, encouragement, support, and mutual accountability I am making different and more constructive choices.

I figured out why that was, during the conference on poverty and opportunity I attended last week. The speaker, Donna Beegle, reminded me of something I’d once heard and forgotten:
For every negative voice/message/person in your life, three are needed to combat and overcome the negativity.

I have had few positive people and messages in my life with any kind of consistency and regularity. That is changing with the 28 Dayers. Thank you all.

The response I got was very overwhelming to me and I found myself shaking and crying uncontrollably for a few moments.

“Here’s the thing that you also need to commend yourself for. These voices are here for you but you still have to reach out for them and also share your voice with others.

We can attest to some packing it in after only a few days. You have to WANT it within yourself as well. And you clearly do. So, pat yourself on the back for sticking it through even when the big resistance hits.” Robert Kennedy III

I have come a long way on my journey, but realize that I do often not reach for things, partially because I have internalized messages that I don’t belong or that I don’t have what it takes to succeed and that the achievements and successes I have had were exceptions and accidents of chance, etc. rather than due to my own efforts and ability. This has contributed to me surrendering my hopes and dreams and giving up on myself. Which, in turn may have led to others giving up on me as well.

With this new realization and understanding, I now know another piece of the puzzle that is me and I am connected to people who are helping me fit the pieces together so that I can continue moving forward into creating the life I want.

Are you, or do you know, someone who has difficulty believing in his or her own personal achievements and accepting the accolades and rewards of accomplishment and success? Does fear of discovery and self-doubt haunt your thoughts and dreams or rise up to dissuade you from pursuing a goal or dream?

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9 comments

  1. I feel like an imposter all the time. I have no “real” credentials for being a social media coach – no training and no client yet whose made any of the top lists so why should anyone listen to me/hire me. I even blogged about it as a way to make myself put my unofficial credentials out there and how what I teach is what I’ve been doing on the net since I first got on it and I’ve had people follow me across different social media for over 20 years so hey maybe I do know something. I can relate it to childhood issues.

    You are an amazing woman. You are a great writer & I should know I’ve been a professional tech writer and manager. LOL

    It takes a while to sink in. Writing about it and referring back to those posts … Or in my case word documents as personal stuff is on my list beyond what’s on my blog helps reinforce it if you pull the post/list out when the doubts hit.

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    1. Tasha,
      I think it’s very easy for us to dismiss ourselves and discount the value of our accumulated experience and knowledge. I think we’ve become inured with the hype and expectation of making it big and going viral, that we overlook the slow and steady progress and growth that gets us to the same finish line.

      I am an avid IMDB user because it really bugs me to not be able to know where else I’ve seen that face or heard that voice. One thing I’ve noticed is this: big names and well-known faces often have a much smaller number of parts and can sometimes go years between projects. However, the “bit players” and not as well known character actors have many, many more roles to their credit, fewer gaps between projects, and longer lasting careers. Now, I have no idea how that translates into fiscal realities for them, but it tells me that making it big isn’t the only way to have a career or measure success.

      I do think that there is value in reading back through past writing and seeing where I’ve come from and seeing where I’m at now. One thing I’m grateful for – my stats checking obsession has dissipated. That’s a huge indicator that I’ve grown to where I’ve internalized that I’m a good enough writer that I don’t need the constant external validation like I once did.

      Thanks for sharing, I always enjoy your visits.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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  2. I was a fairly successful pastor for almost 20 years and often felt I was an imposter. This feeling was particularly aggravated when I was advised not to disclose my mental illness. Now that I’m pursuing a career as a writer, and looking to publish a spiritual memoir revealing my battle with Bipolar, I feel much more confidence. I think self-revelation, when done in the right way at the right time, does wonders to combat “imposter syndrome.”

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    1. Tony,
      I would imagine that the unwarranted pressures that spiritual leaders have, internally as well as externally to essentially be perfect and above reproach or not human, would make Impostor Syndrome even more prevalent as a pastor. To add the stigma of a mental illness in a societal subculture that has a strong tendency to demonize – sometimes literally – the condition and marginalized and disempower those experiencing it, more so than larger society, had to have been a very devastating and difficult thing to get through.

      I’m glad you are here and sharing. Thank you.

      Blessings,
      Kina

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  3. Excellent sharing! I shared this on FaceBook and Twitter! I, too, have fibro. and degenerative disc disease and so blogging and crafting helps me stay focused on the things I can do rather than the things I cannot do. Keep keeping on! Carolyn

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  4. Sounds like an amazing conference. You ARE a writer, no disclaimers needed. Though my background is much different, I often feel the same- I don’t want to oversell myself and have people read and then laugh. It’s tough. I hope you truly let that all sink in, and maybe I can take some of it away too.

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    1. Anita,
      It WAS an amazing conference. I’m pretty sure every post I’ve written since the event has referred back to it in one way or another.

      Thank you for the validation and compliment. Confirmation that I’m on the right track is always gratifying.

      I do hope you and others can and do take away positive affirmations about acknowledging and accepting your own gifts, talents, abilities, effort, and experience.

      Blessings,
      Kina

      Like

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