By Henry Garnett
Some people know this as fraud syndrome. Its when you are marked by an inability to internalize your accomplishments and have a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. I have spoken to many of our cohort who seem to have to experience some form of this thinking since we started in September. I have shared the same thoughts working on a variety of different things and with a variety of different people. It seems we have an eclectic mix of talent and a very diverse group of people that can make you feel slightly inadequate at times.
Despite all of this, it doesn’t seem to correlate to how much you have achieved. You can prove yourself countless times with a stunning career and still feel the same sense of imposter syndrome every time you get a brief. I overheard Pete talking about this on Friday and it resonated with me. If he still gets the same feeling I get after all he’s achieved then I’ve probably just got to learn to deal with it better.
It gave me a weird sense of confidence that I could relate to his way of thinking and that perhaps with many of us at the SCA that sense of imposter syndrome may be all in our heads, at least in terms of our right to be sitting there in church.
You can have an ambient level of the syndrome that lives with you throughout much of what you do. I seem to have had it across literally everything I have ever done no matter how qualified I seem to be. Its a type of approach to how you think. However, you can also have other activities where it flares up particularly badly. For me, at the moment it seems to be public speaking. It is a weakness for me. I generally fall apart every time I get up to speak and everything I had planned to say seems dissolve from the spotlight I feel shining down on me. I feel inadequate and a total imposter every time I’m faced with doing it. I marvel at some of the other students who are just brilliant in the same way but it seems so beyond my capabilities.
I recently read another example of imposter syndrome in Henry Fonda – The world-famous actor with a career spanning 5 decades. Right before every stage performance, even when he was in his 70’s, Fonda would throw up into his dressing room toilet. He said he never felt like he deserved to be on stage and it filled him with crippling anxiety. That feeling never left him despite his experience but he learned to face it and achieve ridiculous things.
Many of our cohorts share the feeling of imposter syndrome despite being told we deserve to be there, and Pete and Henry Fonda show us that we may never overcome it. Moving forward I guess we should try to get used to it and face it like every other challenge at the SCA – with our two middle fingers.