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  • Heather Mistretta

Don't mind the woman behind the curtain

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Fraud, fake, imposter, shrouded professional, expert in disguise or whatever you want to call it, if you have ever been overcome by the Imposter Syndrome, or IP as some experts call it, it’s real. The rush of insecurities, doubt and feelings of inferiority can be suffocating and a bit paralyzing. At times, it feels like serendipity has clearly given you a gift, and it has nothing to do with you or your talent.

So, here I am. I call myself a writer, which means I put words together, ending a group of them with a punctuation mark. I like to think I do this task quite well, but there are days when the extraction of each word is painful and seeing them is even worse.

So apparently, I’m not alone. Phew. I poked around to see what I could find…

In the 1970s psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first investigated IP (yes, it has an acronym) and then shared what they learned in a book called Imposter Phenomenon in 1985. They revealed that although there were dense pockets of prevalence among people who worked in majority-dominated fields, this feeling of inadequacy was visible in men and women, alike, and in many walks of life.

Sound familiar? So, if this is a rather widespread problem, then why do these feelings of inferiority and isolation weigh on our minds so much? For whatever it’s worth, I delved a little deeper into my own psyche into what I thought it might be.

Perhaps it has to do with the onslaught of self-help books, online tips and lifehacks on social media that permeate every part of our lives. We’re told by digital marketers how easy it is to get rich, gain independence and how anyone can do what we/they do. This gives us the impression that our problem should be easily solved if we follow a series of numbered steps, right?

Wrong. Further, the emergence of social media makes everything more transparent, and it’s supposed to improve communication. However, we know that the online communication readily available at our fingertips is great at sharing stories and photos, but we also know that it often hampers face-to-face contact and can cloud perception.

The impression that by simply following a video of outlined steps can make you rich also can dilute the validity and value of what you do…those professionals with the proven abilities and talents are left to feel like they’re not all that special. It’s almost as if we’re led to believe that any Joe Schmo with a couple hundred dollars can replicate what you do; that like George Orwell’s Ninety-Eighty Four, we’re all expected to act the same way.

Simply put, I think social media invites comparisons that really would not have surfaced had it not been for the social media platforms. With all the 21st century-altered American Dream-like promises flooding the internet, it’s easy to get caught up in the rush.

I must admit I’ve been guilty of it. I’ve jumped on some bandwagons that promised great success with little effort. But isn’t there satisfaction in the hard work and ingenuity that led to that success? Doesn’t the confidence building come from going through the trial and error process yourself and realizing that afterward you’ve got the bones, the tools to succeed all on your own?

I think so, and I also think this hand-holding way of learning is weakening our feelings of validation and thereby resulting in the more widespread emergence of the Imposter Syndrome.  

Disclaimer (if you’ve made it this far): I’m not an expert, and my ideas are clearly not revolutionary. I was hoping it would trigger some ideas from you. I’d love to hear your take on this.

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