What to Do If You Feel like an Imposter

Imposter Syndrome is “the disconnect between a person’s internal perceptions and fears of being a discovered as an intellectual fraud by someone important and outward evidence of success and competence.” It’s also, as Doctor B says, the feeling that “you’re not good enough or smart enough for your position, but evidence says otherwise.”

Imposter Syndrome isn’t a mental health diagnosis, but it is pernicious, convincing us that while some people believe they’re frauds incorrectly, we alone are truly, uniquely out of our depth. The Toast nailed that feeling way in a satirical essay from 2014.

Social scientists working on a decades-long population study have recently concluded that every single living resident of the United States suffers from a condition known as imposter syndrome, a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments, except for you, an actual fraud who is almost certainly on the verge of being found out by the people who only think they love and respect you any day now.

But that (painful, hilarious) essay has it wrong. How do we know? Because Doctor B makes a very convincing argument in his newest post on Geek & Sundry.

The reality is that it is rare that someone continuously succeeds despite themselves. Though I suppose it’s possible, I’ve never personally seen it. When you think about it, what would have to be in place for that to happen?

  • Everyone around you is utterly incompetent, oblivious, is easily fooled, and has consistently terrible judgment.
  • You are backed and protected by people who are so powerful and influential that your connections to them are more valuable than you producing competent work.

Here’s why neither are likely true. Firstly, if you work with a successful company or group, how did it get successful and stay successful if everyone around you is so incompetent and/or has consistently poor judgment? For this to be true – well, I can’t even think of the cosmically hilarious series of ironies that could result in this. We can probably scratch the first thing off the list.

What about the second one?

Yes, what about that second one? Doctor B has an answer for that too, along with some sensible ways to see your own worth. Don’t believe us? Still completely convinced you are the exception to his arguments? Go read the full article and see if it stands.

In all seriousness, though — if Imposter Syndrome is affecting you negatively, that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to talk to a therapist about. We can be certain that you’re amazing, but that won’t matter as much until you can believe it yourself.

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