A Blog about Career Changes, Madness, and My Awful Brain

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I am an Imposter.

You ever feel like all of your accomplishments have been due more to good luck and trying hard, then skill? Ever feel like you are a fake, and that you don't deserve the success you have? Are you ever afraid that the Incompetence Police are going to come and get you, and expose you for the fraud that you are?

Well, I do....all the fucking time.

"Oh god, Dan. Not another neurosis on top of the long list you already have."

Fuck off. I can't help I'm crazy.

Seriously, in a lot of ways, being unemployed has been a blessing to me. Depressingly, it's because a lot of the time I feel like it's where I, a person who has tricked people into thinking he's smart and skilled, belong. For once, I don't have to feel like I'm having to work hard to put up the pretense of being a good worker, a smart guy, a guy who "can do this". When I have a job or school, I feel like it's all a big charade, and I feel like at any moment some little kid is going to point up at me and say, "That guy isn't wearing any clothes".

I don't mean that literally. I'm way past the phase where I used to expose myself to families in the park. What I mean is I feel like an imposter, and I feel like I'm just biding my time until I get exposed as a charlatan.

In many ways, this is the hardest post I've ever written. For one, instead of pretending I've got my crap together despite my past, I'm coming out and TELLING you I'm an imposter. I'm not as smart as you think I am. I'm not a good scientist. I don't really have any original ideas. I'm just a guy who has managed to trick every person he's met (okay, not every person..some of you know I'm full of shit) that I know what I'm talking about.

But that's not really true, is it?

I have enough intellectual reasoning abilities that I can recognize that my problem is a distortion in my mental processes. I have enough experience with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy that I realize that maybe I AM successful for reasons besides good luck and manipulation, and that what I think is truth, is nothing but a distortion.

Yep, kiddies...there is a name for what I have. And if there is a name for what you have, then chances are that there are a lot of people who also have what you have. Hell, maybe even one or two of you, who I always assumed are successful and have your stuff together.

It's called Imposter Syndrome. Here is the wiki link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome (hey, I learned how to link properly..cool huh?)

And I quote:

"The impostor syndrome, sometimes called impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome, is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an officially recognized psychological disorder, but has been the subject of numerous books and articles by psychologists and educators. The term was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.[1]

Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.

The impostor syndrome, in which competent people find it impossible to believe in their own competence, can be viewed as complementary to the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which incompetent people find it impossible to believe in their own incompetence."

Yep, sounds like me, except that I had problems actually identifying any "proofs of success". But then I tried to penetrate that haze of distortion and...well...the truth is, until recently, I have had a lot of successes. Top marks in University. A master's degree. Two (and soon to be three) pretty well received papers. Success at most of the jobs I've held. It was also pointed out to me by my amazing fiancee that I do have several talents and other successes (brains out of the gutter, I think she meant things like my speech at toastmasters and writing this blog). Yeah, well....most of the time, I barely see these things as accomplishments. And this blog...hell, who isn't writing a blog these days....a monkey could write a better blog than I. Fucking monkey would probably make less mistakes with "your" and "you're" than I do.

Still (according to wikipedia), it's an extremely common phenomena, especially in academics and in graduate students. I don't doubt that....I've detected similar feelings in ither grad students when I was in school. In fact, it's a fairly common condition in general: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20060901/handson-leadership.html

"Psychological research done in the early 1980s estimated that two out of five successful people consider themselves frauds; other studies have found that 70 percent of all people feel like fakes at one time or another. "Some people, the more successful they become, the more they feel like frauds," says Valerie Young, who leads workshops and professional development programs on the subject. "They feel as though they're fooling people. There's a dissonance between self-image and external reality.""

So what's got me thinking about imposter syndrome and beating myself up for being a fraud. Well, in truth, I have a job interview. I wasn't going to say anything, because a lot of my friends and relatives read this blog and I didn't want anybody hassling me to see how I did. The job that I wrote about in my last blog....well, I applied for it, and I got an interview. I've been doing a bunch of research on the company, spoke to people who know about the company, and have been getting helpful information about interviewing from my family. However, although I have what the company needs on paper (resume, school, etc), I feel, even without detailed information about the job, completely unable to do the work. I'm an imposter. I'm a shitty writer. I have no critical thinking skills. I'm only good at taking simple instructions. Negotiating policy? WHAT THE FUCK MAKES ME THINK I COULD DO THAT. I can trick them with my resume. Maybe I can trick them at the job interview. I can maybe string 'em along for 3 or 4 month. Ultimately, they will see me for who I really am, and I'll be unemployed again, except this time not comfortable sucking on the government tit.

Is that true? I don't know any more. In a lot of ways, I've felt like in the last job I had, I was finally revealed for the imposter I am. I don't know if I could handle going through that again.

You know what though? Fuck it. I'm going to give it a try. I'm going to do my damnedest to convince those people that I can do the job. I'm going to do my damndest to do the job if they hire me. What else can I do?

So what about you, kiddies? Ever feel like imposters? Ever feel like people might find out that you aren't the great worker, student, or person you make yourself out to be? Leave your comments here...and take solace that you aren't alone. Also, take solace that you haven't just exposed yourself to all your friends and family on your crappy blog like I have!

1 comment:

  1. You nailed this one on the head...this is so totally me!...I feel like I'm pretending to play house and pretending to be an accountant. Some days I wake up wondering if today will be the day I'm seen for the dumbass I am. Its so true about how hard it is to be able to see all the accomplishments that you have had throughout your life and career. Guess we're in the same boat.