“I can be very hard on myself. I convince myself that I’m fooling people. Or, I convince myself that people like the book for the wrong reasons.”
Jonathan Safran Foer – about his novel Everything Is Illuminated, which made The New York Times best-seller list.
He also commented, “The writing itself is no big deal. The editing, and even more than that, the self-doubt, is excruciatingly impossible. Profound, bottomless self-doubt: it has no value, what’s the point? In a way, that takes up as much time as anything else.”
Do you relate to those ideas and feelings? Or these:
* Do you secretly worry that others will find out that you’re not as bright and capable as they think you are?
* Do you tend to chalk your accomplishments up to being a “fluke,” “no big deal” or the fact that people just “like” you?
* Do you hate making a mistake, being less than fully prepared or not doing things perfectly?
* Do you tend to feel crushed by even constructive criticism, seeing it as evidence of your “ineptness?”
From the longer Impostor Syndrome Quiz on the site for the Overcoming the Impostor Syndrome program.
Many talented people experience these impostor feelings and beliefs.
Meryl Streep, for example, has said, “I have varying degrees of confidence and self-loathing….
“You can have a perfectly horrible day where you doubt your talent… Or that you’re boring and they’re going to find out that you don’t know what you’re doing.”
This is not an isolated feeling or an issue for only a few talented people.
Over the many years of researching creative people and reading many interviews with high ability people, I have seen quotes like Streep’s showing up often.
Read more in my High Ability site post ‘I’m a Fraud’: Gifted and talented with insecurity.
The Psychology Today article, Field Guide to The Self-Doubter: Extra Credit, by Susan Pinker, excerpted below, brings insight into the thoughts and feelings many people have about being incompetent or impostors:
Not giving herself credit
Rosalyn Lang has a Ph.D. in molecular biology, has just completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University, and recently launched her own consulting firm. In other words, she’s a walking advertisement for what it takes to be successful in science: smarts, opportunity, and perseverance.
Yet when she looks back, she takes little credit for her successes. “I felt inadequate the entire time I was in graduate school. If I got a nice compliment, I just felt, ‘What? They’re trying to pull my leg! I can get kicked out at any minute.’”
Feeling like an impostor
Lang now realizes she wasn’t really an impostor. She just felt like one. Like many highly accomplished women, Lang suffered from “impostor syndrome.” On the outside, she was a star and a role model.
Secretly, though, she chalked up her successes to powers beyond her control, and meanwhile felt personally responsible for any failures—a feeling shared by 93 percent of African-American female college students, according to one study.
External success. Internal agony
According to recent studies of medical, dental, and nursing students with impostor feelings, the phenomenon is linked to perfectionism, burnout, and depression. This was true for Rosalyn Lang, whose impostor feelings drove her to work harder. “The work ethic was great. That’s the kind of focus you need to get everything done in graduate school,” she said. But “internal agony” was how she described her psychological state.
Read the full article.
Six steps for matching perceptions to reality.
- Separate your self-assessments from objective evaluations of your skills. Group-based evaluations, promotions, and letters of reference are less biased than the world seen through “impostor”-colored glasses.
- Give yourself opportunities to compete. Don’t let your self-judgment prevent you demonstrating what you know.
- Reduce your isolation. Talk about your feelings with trusted friends and colleagues. Seek out a mentor or advocate in your organization who believes in you.
- Enjoy your successes and acknowledge praise when it comes your way.
- Resist the impulse to deny and deflect compliments.
- Remember that those who project an air of confidence may not know more than you do. Research shows that most people overestimate their abilities.
See Overcoming the Impostor Syndrome for more.
Also see the Impostor syndrome page for more quotes, articles, books etc.
Article: The Impostor Syndrome – Finding a Name for the Feelings, by Dr. Valerie Young