Have you ever felt that you’re not good enough? It’s a creeping feeling that slowly tries to engulf you as you convince yourself that despite all your achievements, perhaps people can see through the cracks in the facade. This uncertainty with one’s own self gets amplified as soon as we factor in the digital interference in our lives. Given social media’s strong hold over our daily lives and the way we project them to the world, it’s no surprise that we fall further down the rabbit hole of self-deprecation and an almost nauseating sense of inadequacy.

You’re not alone in this though. This odd feeling has been given a name: the imposter syndrome.

The phenomenon of feeling like a fraud or an outsider, i.e. someone who’s faking their way through life, despite evidence to the contrary, has been under study for quite some time now. The term was first introduced as “imposter phenomenon” back in 1978 in an article by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Dr. Suzanne A. Imes. However, at the time it was primarily used to study the feelings of phoniness that high-achieving women felt. Recent studies have shown that gender doesn’t seem to have any major effect on this feeling and that men are as susceptible to this syndrome as women.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a mental disorder per se, but more of a psychological pattern and informs behaviours such as anxiety, stress and even depression. Everyone who has undergone such a behavioural pattern obviously reacts differently. Now, I’ll leave the scientific nitty-gritty to more capable and informed minds (and I honestly suggest setting up a meeting with a therapist if you think you’re going through something along these lines).

Here, though, I’d like to discuss how this syndrome plays out in our daily lives and how I’ve seen it affect many of those around me.

“I’m not good enough”

“I don’t think I’m doing enough”

“I finally achieved my goal, but I don’t think I really deserve it”

“What more can I do?”

“My own clock is ticking and I still haven’t accomplished all the things I wanted to”

These are phrases I’ve heard repeatedly around me and at times have been caught saying them out loud myself. If not out loud, then they’ve always been on the back of my mind for sure. Just a couple of weeks ago when I turned twenty-eight, I thought to myself, “I only have two more years till I hit the big thirty and there’s an entire list of things I still haven’t even embarked upon, let alone accomplish.”

All the while, I keep completely ignoring everything that I have done so far. Any time someone brings up milestones in my life, it seems I take the route of minimising my wins and focusing more on the losses — because how can I actually be deserving of such triumphs. Similarly, those around me are plagued with this malcontent in various aspects of their lives. People I know to be really good writers have shied away from publishing anything because of their fear that no one will read their work and they’ll be caught for their fraudulent behaviour. The fraudulent behaviour being simply to pick up a pen and write. Interestingly enough, writers such as Maya Angelou and Neil Gaiman have reported feeling this way about their own work.

This feeling extends to denying your own self-worth. In Pakistan, I see this largely in women (perhaps it’s an effect of our deeply embedded patriarchal system). Women feel as if they’re inadequate wives, or not worthy of dating, or despite heading major organisations and being in leadership positions their achievements need to be belittled, else someone will uncover their (false) truth and expose them as frauds.

For me, it was heartening to read that people like Tom Hanks, Michelle Obama and even Emma Watson have reported feeling this way. Such people who are in the limelight and their accomplishments are there for the world to see shouldn’t feel this way, right? But they do.

The more I learnt about this concept and the more I dug into it, the easier it became to accept it. I began noticing how for some it’s visible discomfort if they’re publicly praised, while for others it’s avoiding compliments by turning the conversation towards goals that still need to be achieved.

As a millennial, I’m occupied with various projects at the same time, however, it feels awkward telling people about what I do. The creeping feeling comes back and I want to just avoid the spotlight and move on.

My research yielded some basic ways to avoid this feeling: don’t minimise your accomplishments, separate feelings from facts and accentuate the positives in your life. Obviously, this is just what works for me. It’s highly recommended that you see a professional to assuage your concerns and find out the route that’s optimal for you. Remember: imposter syndrome is something that isn’t restricted to age, gender and other factors. You might see it more in one group than the other given your personal surroundings, but everyone is susceptible. The purpose of this article was to highlight this issue so you don’t feel alone or as if you’re losing your mind feeling inadequate. Till then, be kind to those around you, as you don’t know what their struggle is.

Good Times


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