I wasn’t aware of the term till I entered therapy. When my counselor mentioned Imposter Syndrome for the first time, a huge missing puzzle piece in my head seemed to appear out of nowhere to fill a misshapen gap that had been open for a lifetime.
I had been a straight-As student in school and college. I won many trophies as a public speaker, debater, and quizzer all through school and college. I wasn’t ‘cool’ and couldn’t care less about it. I wrote well, I spoke well, and I was looked at as being someone who will easily do well in life.
I am not sure, still, what ‘doing well’ needs to entail. It is subjective and evolutionary. I have understood that now. But the one thing that has definitely remained stationary about this concept is my deep sense of inadequacy. No matter what job, what interest, what volunteer-ship, etc., I always carry an imaginary load of being an undeserving participant in the fold, constantly fighting the feeling that I don’t belong and that everybody else is infinitely cooler and smarter than I can ever aspire to be. Mind you, these feelings are interspersed with an awareness of how overblown my understanding of people’s presentations of themselves is, but they don’t override the main emotion.
This feeling has a form. This is personal, and for me, there is a form. It is a weird hollowness in the stomach. It is a black hole from which no light escapes. It sucks in all my confidence, all my reassurances, teasing the rest of my body to go into a tizzy of damage control. It is like carrying around a bully inside your being. It makes you wonder if it is you, in fact, who is feeding it and keeping it alive. It confuses the hell out of you, making you run around in circles that touch varying points of doubts — from minor hiccups to long-term self-sabotage.
So, how do I live with it? I want to say, I have no clue! But instead, I am going to say that I live with the acute awareness of being afflicted (ha!) with imposter syndrome. I get used to rationalizing my doubts — are they real and fact-based, or imaginary and fed by a demon? A lot of times, it is the latter. I try my best to trust that pattern and use historical perspective to keep moving forward. I try to listen to and absorb the words of well-wishers.
And, I try to tell myself that I deserve to be where I am. And, that I deserve to aim higher. Every day.