Thursday, February 8, 2024

why some people don't want to banish their imposter syndrome

Some people will be aware that I wrote a book about imposter syndrome, which turns out to be a bit like marmite: some love it, whilst others have uninvited me from speaking at events because of it.

The central idea in my book is that, after looking at lots of research papers and studies, and evidences from various places and sources, I don't think imposter syndrome is what most people say and think it is. 

(SPOILER - it's actually part of what it means to be a human being, helps keep us safe, and can act as a superpower in our work and lives).

But something that struck me as I waded through all the published research materials about it was a recurring thought: 'if all the evidence and research keeps showing this thing isn't what people say it is, then why does it seem that so people say they feel they have it, and it's negatively affecting their lives?'

Perhaps part of the answer could be that imposter syndrome is an illusionary truth - something that, because we've heard lots of people talk about it in the same way, we accept as being true without questioning it. Just like the 10,000 hours rule, breakfast being the most important meal of the day, etc. 

But I also wonder if it may also be to do with it being a 'label' which, in being external to a person, makes it easier to validate a lack of motivation or desire to progress on their part? (And so we fall victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy - best articulated in the armed forces through their adage of 'if a soldier thinks they'll die in battle tomorrow, they'll probably find a way to make it happen'.)

Suffering with 'something' can make it easier to justify not pushing ourselves to grow - but in doing so, we create a fake 'safe space' for ourselves, which only serves to limit our potential, and the lives we might otherwise be living.

As Baz Luhrmann once observed - "a life lived in fear, is a life half lived."

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