Imposter Syndrome: be yourself; everyone else is taken

A visit to the cinema this week to see a bio-pic, and a conversation with colleagues about confidence reminded me of this anecdote shared by an author I admire (Neil Gaiman), on his website.

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. Standing at the back of the hall I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

Yes, the bio-pic was “First Man” about Neil Armstrong, and the conversation with colleagues had coincidentally been about “imposter syndrome.” We had all experienced this feeling at some point in our careers and wondered in hindsight if it’s something everyone goes through – maybe an inevitable side-order to the fruits of success.  And if the “first man” felt that way, well maybe that’s so!

Imposter syndrome, if unchecked, can drain your energy as you force yourself to do ever more in order to prove yourself and to show you’ve earned your place at the table.  That can particularly be so for women, and made worse when you add the pressure of being the perfect parent to the goal-list.  So, I’d like to suggest we take Neil’s advice (not that one, not the First one, the other one) and just try to do the best we can.  It’s ok to ask for the help we need and take advantage of the supports offered and after all, we can only be who we are and that’s going to be good enough.

This guest blog comes from our Communications Manager, Deb Ejenas.