Impostor Syndrome - Photo and artwork by Jacob Catabay

I suffer from impostor syndrome. Do you?

Hi, I’m Mike. Nice to meet you! I suffer from Impostor Syndrome. In fact, I believe I’m the biggest impostor of them all.

A few weeks ago I hosted the latest in our “Learn to blog in an hour and a bit” workshop series. My palms were sweaty, my knees were weak, my arms were heavy. (Thankfully on my sweater there was no trace of vomit consisting of anyone’s spaghetti.) The voice in my head was accelerating in pace. “Come on, you can do this, we’ve gone through this five or six times with Lucy already, it shouldn’t be too hard…”

“Hi everyone, I’m Mike from the Learning Innovation Hub. And…”

“You’re a fraud!” cried my inner voice. For some reason it sounds like Danny DeVito from It’s Always Sunny… “Go on, tell ‘em!”

“Uh, normally I help my colleague Lucy Arthur with these workshops, but as you may have heard…

I’m an impostor.

The voice in my head that keeps nagging me, reminding me why I can’t possibly run the workshops because Lucy did such a great job at it, and there’s no way I could have the same gusto and wit that she brought to the table because, well, I’m actually not Lucy. I don’t even have her accent.

That voice of unreasonable doubt, that feeling of inadequacy regardless of personal situation, achievement, and self-worth. That voice that says nope, because you’re not as good at something as someone else is. That you don’t have a PhD or Masters in whatever it is that someone else does. She has a higher GPA! He comes from a long line of people that are the thing that you’re not! Where’s your authority? Where are your publications? You provide little or no value compared to someone else!

That’s called impostor syndrome. And I have it – do you?

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

It’s a real pity; due to impostor syndrome, we often fail to realise that being ourselves is actually our greatest asset.

The way we see things, approach challenges, and conquer them is uniquely ours; borne of our personal experience and wealth of expertise amassed over our lifetime. Nobody can replicate this, which is why our own individual perspectives are truly valuable. And it’s with this very individual perspective (that may not mean much to yourself at this point in time) that you could make a positive impact in someone else’s world. “Did you hear that, impostor syndrome? Bugger off!”

One only has to read Teche to see the value in sharing ideas, knowledge, and building a community of like-minded individuals who continue to inspire and provide insight into learning and teaching at Macquarie and beyond.

Before her departure from Macquarie, Lucy suggested I write an article about impostor syndrome, since it’s been a topic that people seemed to gel with from our workshops. I was keen to take up the challenge, but didn’t know when I’d get a chance to reflect on what it really meant. (And besides, Rebecca has already written a killer article about it.)

I’ve since been appointed the next Managing Editor of Teche. I can’t promise to fill your shoes, Lucy, but I’ll do my best. I truly am the biggest impostor of them all.

Are you an impostor like me? I’d love to know what you think about Impostor Syndrome in the comments!

19 thoughts on “I suffer from impostor syndrome. Do you?”

  1. Great article Mike… and I know exactly how you feel! This gets me everyday in some small way. This will sound really lame (imposter, see?) but I imagine those voices coming from a little flea who I can just flick away when those thoughts creep in. It helps.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. Nice write-up of a topic that affects (afflicts?) so many — you’re definitely not alone! Amy Cuddy’s TED talk is also offers a great perspective (for those who’ve not already seen it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks-_Mh1QhMc

    I also associate this Bertrand Russell quote whenever I think about impostor syndrome:

    The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

    So…maybe self-doubt is really a sign of intelligence? 😛

    1. Thanks for the comment, love that TED talk from Amy Cuddy! It’s almost a case of faking it till you make it I guess. So my self-doubt *is* a good thing (at times, and if balanced well) 😛

  3. Love this post – thanks Mike! Feeling particularly imposter-ish having commenced in a new role recently and having absolutely no idea what I’m doing ( a short term problem I hope!) And I love the idea of the flea – so easy to flick off the shoulder! I’m working hard on being as up front about what I don’t know as what I do and it helps. Most people are more than willing to help fill in the knowledge gaps…..

    1. Thanks for your reply Lia, congratulations on the new role! Tackling the new is always a good way to move forward. There’s a great quote from one of my favourite books, The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday; “In every situation, life is asking us a question, and our actions are the answer.”

  4. Great article Mike – and you know what, most people go through this at some time or another – what makes you great is that you admit it when many don’t!
    Good luck with the new role you will be awesome.

  5. Great post Mike! I absolutely relate. I’m not sure where I read it but I read somewhere that imposter syndrome is really prevalent and actually if you don’t feel it at all you may not be challenging yourself enough. So at least you know that you are growing and being challenged 😉

    Congratulations and welcome to the role of Managing Editor 🙂

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