One of my favorite bloggers is “The Bloggess.” Yesterday she wrote a serious entry that resonated very strongly in me.
This was my response to her:
“Nearly 3,000 comments? Looks like you are most certainly NOT alone! Which might be cold comfort, I don't know.
The first time I heard the term "Imposter Syndrome" was last year. My sister in law, a psychologist, said I suffered from that. I can never internalize my accomplishments. I'm a 4.0 student? Only because my teachers like me and I have a line of bullshit a mile long. Not because I study my ass off and most definitely NOT because I might have more than two brain cells to rub together. My kids are happy, strong, independent, loving, empathetic, and smart? It's not because I am a good mom. In fact it is despite the fact that I SUCK as a mom. My husband still loves me after 23 years of this crazy shit? It's because he is a saint and sufferers from "broken wing syndrome." NOT because I am deserving of his love. NOT because I've earned it. (I don't know if broken wing syndrome is a thing. But he has a thing for wanting to help "broken" people. Which is pretty damned impressive for an engineer)
So yeah, I am there with you. The little voice in my head is one evil bitch. I am working hard at shutting her up.
Number of days I don't feel like a fraud? Maybe 2 days out of a week. When the planets align and it's a really good month, maybe 3 days out of a week? So, somewhere between 8-12 days out of a month. But I've worked damn hard over the past couple of years to get it that high.
Depression and anxiety suck. Add that together with feeling like your life is a lie and that you are a fraud...I don't know. I need a better term than "REALLY SUCKS”
The reason I am sharing this is that the more I talk to people, the more I learn, this is not terribly uncommon. I am NOT sharing to be told my inner voice is “wrong” or to get pats on the back and compliments. Logically, I KNOW that voice is wrong. I know it is wrong because if any of my friends were saying these things about themselves, I would be able to clearly see and know that they were wrong. They are not imposters. And I know that I am not so special that “my case is different.”
The last 2+ years I have worked DAMN hard to silence that inner voice that tells me I am a fraud. It’s still there and frequently it is the only voice I can hear. But that is not the case ALL the time now. Slowly, I am beginning to own more and more of my “good stuff” as well as the bad. Slowly, I am starting to believe that my friends aren’t all so stupid that I’ve been “pulling the wool over their eyes.”
How much of this imposter crap is due to dealing with major depression for 30 years? I don’t know. I suspect there are people out there who are not depressed who also occasionally face this. I just wonder if the depression makes it more extreme? Makes the inner voice louder?
I do have to disagree with some of the comments from her blog. There were a number of people who said that “EVERYONE suffers from this.” That is not true. I know people who do not. They accept their accomplishments as their OWN. No, they are not jerks or super egotistical. They just know that they have worked hard to reach their goals. That being said, I think this “imposter syndrome” is much more common than those who suffer from it realize. I suspect those people who we are sure “have it all together,” often deal with the same nagging doubts and feel like they are faking it just enough to get by. I think we’d be shocked and relieved and maybe a bit saddened to discover who feels like an imposter. But at least we would know that we were not the only ones.