We have all heard of the term “imposter syndrome.” In psychology, it is described as a pattern in which the individuals doubt their accomplishments and experience an internalised, often totally unfounded fear of being “found out,” or perhaps disclosed as a “fraud.”
Put more simply, it often occurs when people feel that they should not be where they are, and somehow got there by accident, fluke, pretence, the luck of the draw or even “fate”. Their internal self-appraisal leaves them unaware of the personal attributes that would merit the position they now find themselves in. The experience, rather than being enjoyed and celebrated becomes an inner conflict, wherein its only a matter of time until the “real” person is discovered and rejected.
Such thinking comes from the idea that one must have “got there” in order be a person of status. The truth is we are in a constant process of “becoming,” so it is almost tautological that one cannot “be there” unless one has journeyed to that point, exposing oneself to new experiences, learning and development on the way.
The fact that we, as human beings, are processes rather than outcomes in themselves is at the core of this phenomenon. We are a constantly changing dynamic, never the same person from one moment to the next. Sometimes more resourceful, sometime less, sometimes living completely in the now, at other shaded with past associations, learning and limiting self-concepts. Despite this, we often get by with benchmarking who we are against the external world, which often has standards, expectations and narratives that support being a certain way.
Another way of looking at imposter syndrome is the fact that those people experiencing it have egos that are sufficiently circumspect, and they question who they are in relation to their fellow human beings. Far from egocentric arrogance, there is a modesty, a caution, a sense of self-reflection and an earnest attempt to ensure acceptance. In many cases, this could be rebadged as an increasingly rare quality we see these days “modesty.” The ability to recognise that where we get to as the sum combination of talent, intention, conspiracy of events and just plain luck, contributes to something that is less self-doubt or an inflated sense of success and much more akin to “humility”.
Many reflective people either require time or often display introversion qualities when surrounded by a world of “can-do” personalities, so it’s very hard to see these things as valuable and they register instead as deficits.
In an egocentric, postmodern world, where the ultimate focus is on “me,” our favourite subject of conversation becomes ourselves and so we very rarely connect in meaningful ways to have discussions about how we develop a balanced appraisal of ourselves in a world that loves certainty rather than debate.
So, when everyone is feeling that perhaps one shouldn’t be there, one has to ask the question “then who else?” and accept, that perhaps some virtuous thinking is at work in a conscientious person that strives, hopes, works and aspires. Such people have something very valuable by way of learning on offer those who are very much the centres of their own universe and offer true authenticity for the discerning!