Imposter Syndrome: Counterpoint
I suspect you already know me, but just in case: I’m that voice in your head that helps you to recognize your shortcomings. You probably know me best from work – you wouldn’t believe how many meetings I’m in every week – but whatever the frequency of our interactions, I hope you know this is the bottom line: I care about you, and I’m here to help when you navigate those surges of deceptive emotions like confidence or competence or joy.
Let’s dispense with the notion that I am a negative influence. What I bring to the table is perspective, and without it, you may mistake yourself as capable or even talented.
You’ve probably read some heavy shade about me over the years on social media. Every few weeks, someone logs in to LinkedIn to boost their personal brand by name-dropping me and discrediting my work, replaying the same tired arguments before they drop an improvised bullet list of feel-good aphorisms like “you are enough,” “don’t believe the lies,” blah blah blah. Well, allow me to set a few things straight.
First, let’s dispense with the notion that I am a negative influence. What I bring to the table is perspective, and without it, you may mistake yourself as capable or even talented. For example, that idea you brought up in the meeting last week, the one you immediately regretted? I know you want to forget that incident, but I bring it up to remind you that it was your dumb idea. I had nothing to do with that, yet somehow, I’m to blame? I’m sure your coworkers talk about it constantly, so why shouldn’t I? And while we’re at it, same thing goes for that weird Netflix tangent you went off on at happy hour. So awkward.
Next, I saw one of those social posts encouraging you to screenshot every email you receive from people giving you praise. The advice was to refer back to these notes when you are feeling down. Honestly, I’m as surprised as you are whenever such kudos arrive, though let’s remember, there are a lot of people at your company who are easily duped, so I guess my email would say, nice work on duping them.
But here’s the thing about that advice – do you really have time to relive past quote-unquote achievements when you have so much work to do today? Everyone is already wondering if you are really up for the job, and that’s only going to get worse when they catch you reading old emails like some aging superlative-winner perpetually flipping through their high school yearbook.
I care about you, and I’m here to help when you navigate those surges of deceptive emotions like confidence or competence or joy.
Finally, some of these articles say I’m the reason you have trouble internalizing and owning your personal successes. This idea is oddly presumptive – after all, there’s no objective definition of success. If you won the lottery, would you say, “I’m very successful at winning lotteries”? No, because a lottery is nothing but luck. If you’d gone into that 7-11 ten minutes later, you wouldn’t have won. Do I need to continue this analogy?
I expect you’ll argue that there is actually ample evidence that your success at work isn’t luck. You’ll probably cite something like a recent one-on-one with your boss when they praised your work and applauded your handling of that delicate project. I’m not saying that didn’t happen, but of course they’re going to say that – your boss has deadlines to meet, so they’re looking for any way to manage and motivate you so that they don’t get dinged for hiring your barely capable self in the first place. Gaslighting you is probably their last option. But I expect you know this, right?
The bottom line is, I’m on your side – it’s just that I’m also a realist. How about instead of treating me like the enemy, we work together to set more reasonable expectations? Let me know. I’m here to help.
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