The Imposter Effect

It’s happens when you’re sitting in an important meeting with important people and you feel like a lizard who scuttled its way in here, transformed into a human being and no one blinked an eye. It’s happens when you land your dream internship that you damn well earned but you’re just busy hoping they don’t notice who they just hired. It’s a promotion, a nomination, an award, a thank you and all you can think is– who, me?

No matter how much you accomplish, you’re patiently waiting for the shroud to be ripped away, the man behind the curtain to be exposed and a crowd of executives in business suits to point and laugh. Or something like that. It’s called imposter syndrome, coined by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978. It’s the feeling that you’re faking it and barely making it. Imposter syndrome describes individuals who have an inability to internalize their accomplishments and fear being exposed as a “fraud”. You pray the façade holds up and that you can keep on playing this game.

This phenomenon is most common among high-achieving women. So congrats—if you feel like this ever, you’re probably a high achieving women. And I get it, you probably didn’t believe that at all when you read it. A high achieving woman? “I’m a worm in clothes.” –me, most of the time. But it’s real. When we succeed we feel as if we were wearing Harry’s invisibility cloak and snuck into success undetected.

This feeling is most common among people who are perfectionists, overwork, undermine their achievements, fear failure and discount praise.

From college students to internationally renowned writers, this feeling is not unfamiliar.

“I have written 11 books, but each time I think “Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody and they’re going to find me out.” –Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou, people.

A study by Queena Hoange also suggests that people of color may experience “imposter syndrome” as a result of wondering if they were given their position by affirmative action. This is because imposter syndrome often occurs in groups excelling in areas that were not always accessible to them traditionally. When we do well at things we are told we should not be doing well in we sit and wonder what went wrong.

You! Are! Deserving! Of! Opportunities! You! Are! Given!

Revel in that. You may not be entitled to these opportunities, but you do not deserve them any less than anyone else. When you work hard, you are able to be rewarded. Don’t belittle this. Don’t self-deprecate. Don’t play it like it’s nothing. Take it in like rare air. Breathe in success, to the deepest atoms of your lungs and let it sit there because it feels good and it’s right. Stop describing yourself and your life as “just” or “only” anything. Grab onto the good words that are given to you, raise them in the air and go chase some more. Drink some coffee and pretend you know what you’re doing, because you do. 

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