That sneaky bastard, impostor syndrome


The other day I was chatting with a friend. Who I love to death, partially because he’s willing to call me out on my bullshit. Like this time. He was talking about some of his friends and said “and you, you’re a very accomplished woman” and I snorted out loud in derision. 

He stopped, and looked at me, and said, “What?! You are!” I started laughing. He then insisted that I say that about myself, out loud. We went back and forth on it for a solid minute and a half before I gave in and said, “I’m a very accomplished woman.”

And then, I still couldn’t say it with a straight face – I laughed my way through the sentence.

Standing in the shadow of impostor syndrome

I’m willing to bet you’ve had something similar happen. Someone complimented you on your skills and expertise and your first reaction was to counterpoint it – “Oh, thanks, but I’m still working on it” or “Yeah, I guess that’s true, but I’m really sucking at xyz right now…”

Seriously. Who does that?! I’m fully aware of how annoying and self-deprecating it is, but I still have to actively work against the urge to do so any time someone pays me a compliment. (Interestingly, I can accept compliments about my appearance just fine, and only feel the need to counterpoint when someone compliments me on my skills/talents/intelligence. What’s up with that?)

And I’m working on it, I really am. At least one thing that helps me is looking at the facts – on a good day I can say I’m awesome with a straight face, on a bad day, nope. But on a bad day I can still say “I wrote an Amazon Kindle bestseller”, because I have the screenshots to prove it. Granted, I might say it like “I WROTE A FUCKING AMAZON BEST SELLER I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS, DAMMIT”, but I’ll say it with a straight face.

You know what’s the really annoying part?

The fact that you and I hear the whispers of impostor syndrome is a virtual guarantee that we don’t, in fact, suck, and that there is no factual basis for someone to call us a fake & a fraud.


Because people who suck don’t think they suck.

The people who question themselves, who say “Is this really the best I can do?” and have high standards, and strive for excellence across the board? (Like say, you & me?)

They’re the ones that are likely to come down on themselves hardest, asking “Why didn’t I do better?” or thinking that what they did do wasn’t good enough. One of life’s cruel ironies, y’all.

I wish I had an antidote…

…but I really, really don’t. Which bothers me. ‘Cause y’all know I love me some actionable tips. The only things that have helped me are:

  • starting to recognize the pattern in myself
  • having people around who will call me on my BS when it crops up
  • reminding myself of the facts when necessary (trufax: when I’m feeling imposter syndrome real bad, I go read my about page, and then I remind myself that there are things I haven’t even had time to add there – like that now I’m a contributor at Lifehack and also that I got invited to speak at a women’s business conference in September, WHUTTTT)

So…I guess give those a try and see what works for you. In the meantime, next time that little voice starts whispering, you have my official permission to flip it off and ignore it. 

Further reading: The Two Word Most Feared by the Impostor Complex

Do you sometimes feel you’re two or perhaps only one step ahead of the customer who you’re charging for your professional services?

Or perhaps you dread being caught out. Or when someone praises you for a job well done, you really don’t believe them.

Don’t feel alone. So many business owners and professionals feel that have to ‘fake it to make it’. In fact, it is so common it has a name, ‘The Impostor Syndrome’.

Come with the Word Carnival bloggers on an exposure of this syndrome to find out if you suffer from it and what you can do about it.

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