I have been watching myself over the past few months and I see something coming to the surface more and more – the more I put myself and my ideas out there, the more I feel it. While I do speak about my ideas and stand by them, I continuously battle an internal monologue that asks questions I cannot answer but which trouble me deeply still: oh how do you know that is true? who are you to intervene? what if what you are saying is wrong? what if you look ridiculous?
I don’t know of any other sabotage that is stronger than the one happening right inside of us. Imposter syndrome is proven to affect so many, women especially. I am not sure I am comforted by illustrious company in this but it nevertheless exists:
The Harvard Business Review defines this syndrome very eloquently:
‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence. They seem unable to internalize their accomplishments, however successful they are in their field. High achieving, highly successful people often suffer, so imposter syndrome doesn’t equate with low self-esteem or a lack of self-confidence. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women and among academics.Overcoming Imposter Syndrome, HBR
This week was a peak for me. Whether I was talking to a group of like minded professionals, launching the website I built for my dream business or managed my team, the inside voice telling me I might not really know what the heck I was talking about got louder and louder. And exhaustion does not help, of course. It seems the more tired I feel, the less able I am to ignore this voice or fact check what it says.
I spent a little bit of time trying to understand where it started and I was catapulted in elementary school almost instantly. Even now, so many years later, I can feel my stomach contracting when I remember the anxiety in class, the idea that I will be called upon and I won’t know the answer, teachers and classmates alike laughing at something I got wrong (was this even real or was it in my head?). The immediacy with which I went back in time to that precise point surprised me. It was as if something in me was right there waiting to be seen.
It must not be by chance that I work in a school and that I have a child who goes to a different type of school than the one I went to. Research shows that imposter syndrome has its roots in childhood and, even though there is little I can do in my case about this, I feel I can definitely help my son not get where I am. Where so many people are these days.
In more ways than one, we get to live our lives again when we raise or teach children. It is important we teach our children that their opinion is important by actually listening to them when they give it and seeing them – really seeing them. They can always tell. It is essential we listen to words they say about themselves and teach them to fact check assumptions. We will build amazing human beings in our children if we teach them that, while empathy and connection make for a life worth living, they should not be mistaken for people pleasing and constantly tweaking their own opinion to match others’ . And most importantly we must teach our children and remind ourselves that …