The Great Pretender

Memoir Mondays

Today’s post comes courtesy of The Daily Post’sThe Great Pretender” prompt, which asks:
Are you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Impostor Syndrome? Tell us all about it.

There isn’t the slightest doubt in my mind that I have almost always suffered from “impostor syndrome”, which basically states that a person is unable to internalize their achievements. In other words, no matter how well you’re doing, you never feel like you truly deserve your success. You’re an impostor. You’re somehow fooling everyone into believing that you’re anything special.

I’d never put words to it before coming across the definition of the syndrome, but now that I’ve read it I realize that I’ve felt this way for quite a long time. I expect, perhaps, that it popped up sometime around junior high school. Way back in elementary school I was actually quite confident. I was a smart kid who made awesome grades, I was musical, I read way beyond my grade level, and I was pretty damn confident. I was never the most popular kid, and of course I had my doubts here and there, but I knew that I was intelligent.

That slipped aside by the time I’d hit junior high, which is unsurprising really because junior high is similar to rounding up all the kids and throwing them into the fifth circle of hell. At that point everyone is a swirling maelstrom of hormones and frustrations, and as I’ve already mentioned I was never the most popular kid so my cause was already a lost one right from the get-go. And French Social Studies was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was an extra class that we could take; Social Studies in French instead of English so as to help advance our French-speaking capabilities. I did great in the class. I think I left with something like a 95. And while part of me jumped with joy because I loved making good grades, part of me also felt like an impostor because I didn’t learn a goddamn thing in that class. No joke. I did not learn any extra French, and I learned considerably less Social Studies, because the entire class was a memorization system. I was good at memorizing and regurgitation the sentences, so that’s what I did. Half the time I didn’t have the slightest clue what I was writing, but I kept getting the answers right, so that was all that mattered at the time.

And those kinds of things continued to happen throughout the rest of school. Don’t get me wrong…I was still a smart kid, and I know that, but there were always those certain classes, or those certain teachers, or those certain subjects that I managed to wing my way through with little to no effort for a number of reasons, and those instances always gave me that split feeling of success, and feeling like an impostor. Mind, I didn’t pay much attention to the impostor part because I was a kid, and a kid nearly always chooses the easy route when available.

But that feeling is one that persists into many areas of life. I felt like an impostor at my first post-graduate job because I was the first tradeswoman to ever work there and everyone was expecting that I must be amazing in order to have been hired. I felt like an impostor when my husband and I were looking at houses because I still felt like a kid who was nowhere near mature enough to be a homeowner. When I went out West for the first time I felt like an impostor because I’d never so much as set foot on a plane before and here I was traipsing to the other side of the country for work.When I self-published my book I felt like an impostor, because surely if my book was worth reading it could be traditionally published instead. Every time I read the comments on my YouTube videos I feel like an impostor because people seem to like me and I feel, for some reason, like they shouldn’t.

But you know what? I’m willing to bet that, even if they don’t admit it, most people suffer from “Impostor Syndrome” at some point or another, if not on a regular basis. Because it’s just human nature to doubt yourself, second-guess yourself, feel like you didn’t really earn something. And that’s okay, in small doses, as long as you’re still able to step back every now and then and accept that you got where you are because, at least in part, it’s where you were aiming to be. Who’s with me?

8 thoughts on “The Great Pretender

  1. A guy I used to work for would thank me continuously for doing some task, and I would just tell him I was doing my job. Now I realize he was greatful that he could he could trust me ro get the job done without having watch over me. Back then I just assumed anyone could have done it, no need ro praise me. I think I’m still like that. Great post!

  2. Great thoughts. Thanks for your honesty. I know I’m there most of the time…and there’s really no reason for me to be. I think more people feel this way than are willing to admit it. (Personally I feel it’s probably a result of some cultural or social trend gone wrong!)

    • Oh, I’m sure there’s probably some study somewhere that explains all the reasons why none of us believe in ourselves, and I’m quite confident that you’d be right about “cultural or social trends”. :\

      • Well, I feel a lot of it in our generation can be chalked up to the idea that if you don’t conform to the “average” or the “status quo”, that somehow there’s something wrong with you. As someone who has never fit the above categories — and often not seen the need to — I’ve received a lot of grief from other people. And there’s really no reason for it.
        I applaud you for coming out and saying it. Don’t listen to the study just because it’s a study. 🙂 The so-called experts generally don’t know it all.

        • That’s definitely a possibility that makes sense, and I feel you. I didn’t exactly fit the mold when I was a kid either. I got teased a lot for liking the wrong things and not being as “mature” as the other kids (like, not knowing slang words for sex and stuff like that). It used to frustrate me a lot because I was just being me, you know?

          • I think a major problem with our culture (mostly North American) is that we’ve developed a set of “standards” for kids that really don’t translate to stuff they need for actual life — for example, if they don’t know who’s on the Top 40 charts this month, or the slang regarding the latest apps, etc., then somehow they’re not “in the know”… How many of those “savvy” teenagers know how to iron, or change their own sheets, or apply first aid to a minor cut? I lived in the UK for a while when I was younger, and Americans are generally seen as wimps and kind of morons for some of the things we consider “important” (to a point, I agree!).

            Don’t worry about “being yourself” — I applaud you for it, and you should appreciate it, too! It’s something I’ve often struggled with, and it turns out, I am better off for being comfortable with who I am, and not caring what other people think! The trend among my generation (between Gen X and the Millenials) is to go back to the “tried and true” things of our grandparents’ time…including things like how we base our self-image. Here’s to the retro revolution!

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