The cuckoo cunningly deposits its eggs in the nests of unsuspecting hosts, hoping they remain oblivious to the fact that the often much bigger chick that emerges is a deceitful imposter. Despite the blatant deception – evident to all keen observers, this crafty behavior persists unchecked, perpetuating year after year.
I am well aware of my capabilities as an individual. I possess a strong voice and rarely find myself devoid of an opinion – even when faced with unfamiliar territory. I have an unstoppable urge to be right in my own mind and to know what I’m talking about. To not understand something (or to not have an opinion) makes me feel like there is a void in my head that needs to be filled. And I don’t want to feel monumentally stupid or uncultured.
It is that same constant need to fill the gaps in my knowledge that keeps me in a perpetual state of feeling inadequate. I worry that I’ll be uncovered for the fraud I am, having winged it for all these years giving opinions on topics I know nothing about and getting jobs that I have no qualifications for. School grades? The exam board must have made a mistake. University? Don’t ask me how I managed to get there, let alone come away with a degree.
For years, I believed that it was my ability to turn a phrase or speak eloquently that kept me in the ‘smart’ circles at school and work. If I sounded intelligent, perhaps I would go undetected! Ultimately, it became evident that the entirety of this discourse was utter nonsense, particularly upon exploring the intricacies of imposter syndrome and its symptoms.
Defined as a psychological phenomenon characterised by persistent feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy despite evidence of competence, imposter syndrome affects countless individuals in all walks of life. It is the pervasive belief that one’s achievements are the result of luck or deception rather than genuine ability or effort. As I delved deeper into understanding this phenomenon, it became clear that my own experiences aligned closely with the classic symptoms of imposter syndrome.
One of the hallmark signs? The perpetual fear of being exposed as a fraud. I realized that my constant need to voice opinions on every topic, regardless of my actual knowledge or expertise, stemmed from a deep-seated fear of being seen as ignorant or uninformed. I believed that, by confidently expressing myself, I could camouflage any perceived deficiencies and maintain the illusion of competence. Unfortunately, this approach only served to cement my feelings of inadequacy; I often found myself overwhelmed by the vastness of knowledge and the realization that I couldn’t possibly be an expert in everything.
Another symptom of imposter syndrome that resonated with me was the tendency to attribute achievements to external factors rather than acknowledging personal competence. Despite receiving positive feedback and recognition for my work, I would dismiss it as mere luck or the result of others’ generosity or oversight. The imposter within me refused to accept that I had earned my accomplishments through hard work, skill, and dedication. This self-sabotaging thought pattern not only undermined my confidence but also hindered my ability to embrace new opportunities and take on greater challenges.
Recognizing these patterns and understanding the roots of my feelings of inadequacy was a crucial step towards overcoming imposter syndrome. I came to realize that I had been discounting my own abilities and minimizing my achievements, fueling a cycle of self-doubt and anxiety. I also looked at other people succeeding in life and assumed they had it “all figured out,” while I lagged behind second guessing everything. It was time to break free from the clutches of imposter syndrome and cultivate a healthier mindset.
Naturally, breaking free is easier said than done, and although I have started to foster healthier outlooks on my day-to-day life, the same feelings can rear their ugly heads every once in a while. It is perhaps important to the credibility of this blog to digress and note that I am exploring the possibility of an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis; not only do I appear to have 90 percent of the symptoms, but I also found that ADHD can significantly contribute to imposter syndrome. If you think you might be struggling with symptoms of ADHD, I would strongly recommend going down this route first! You can find more information on ADHD here.
In the meantime, regular gym sessions, healthier eating, and extra curricular activities have given me a serotonin boost that combats constant feelings of self doubt. Micro-tasks – making my bed in the morning, walking the dog, folding my laundry – gradually accumulate to foster a more uplifting and optimistic state of mind. Succeeding in the mundane, if you will, is arguably as important as longer term aspirations. I have also started to say “yes” to new challenges…
Earlier in 2023, one of Texere’s health and wellbeing champions, Tara Higby, suggested that it would be a fantastic idea to deliver a presentation on imposter syndrome to all employees. It wasn’t out of the blue; I had mentioned the concept in passing over a brew and biscuit some months prior. How sneaky of her to blindside me and finally expose the imposter, shining a spotlight on him for the whole company to see!
I’m joking of course. It was a brilliant idea.
Embarking on this project threw me into a state of splendid isolation. It was a task that only I was accountable for. What I found while undertaking the project was a whole world of statistics:
I collated my findings into a presentation in the hope that it would help not only people in the business, but anyone who happened to stumble upon it. I included avenues for help and alternative ways of combating imposter syndrome in your daily life. You can find the slides here.
Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the project was knowing that I would be contributing to Texere Publishing’s Health and Wellbeing initiative. Since joining the company in November 2021, it has been warming to see the company putting people first, hosting mental health workshops and welcoming external parties into the office for wellbeing classes. Aside from my personal project, we have also had talks on domestic violence, OCD, and work-life balance, to name but a few. It is no surprise then that Texere was awarded Silver in the Investors in People Awards in 2022. To have contributed something towards our path to gold feels great.
Each of us possesses unique experiences and coping mechanisms, yet my sincere aspiration today is to transmit a message of positivity and hope – particularly if you find yourself navigating a similar chapter in your own life. You must bear in mind that there is no universal solution, so I fervently encourage you to embark on your own quest for understanding through diligent research. Maintain an unwavering curiosity and an insatiable thirst for knowledge as you forge ahead on your personal journey – whether that’s combating imposter syndrome or any other debilitating mental nuisance. Just remember: you are not alone, and the first step towards tackling a problem is acknowledging it and talking about it.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues at Texere Publishing for helping drag me out of my comfort zone to complete this project. It has been an experience.