Michelle Obama’s been out on her book tour lately, and she said something that really struck me: she still struggles with imposter syndrome. It’s not something I expected to hear from her, but that’s the thing about imposter syndrome, isn’t it? The people who struggle with it rarely let on because we’re so afraid of being found out for the frauds we really are, and it creates a self-perpetuating cycle of isolation.
Yeah, I said “we.”
To be honest, I’ve been awfully quiet on this blog over the last several months because I kept telling myself that I didn’t have anything interesting enough to say, that nothing I could come up with was original enough for others to want to read it, and that I’d probably just end up embarrassing myself (nobody wants to get dragged on Twitter, right?). How’s that for negative self talk? What a mess.
In case you’ve never come across the term before, “imposter syndrome” describes a state of self-doubt even when you’re outwardly successful. It can be mild and episodic, or it can be debilitating and constant. It often travels hand-in-hand with perfectionism and anxiety, like some sort of awful self-doubt gang of ruffians.
If you’ve ever struggled with imposter syndrome, you know what it feels like. It’s freaking out about failing the test you studied really hard for, and then telling people you just got lucky when it turns out you got an A. It’s walking into a meeting at work with an entire binder of material you’ve carefully prepared and a presentation you’ve worked on for weeks, but feeling like you’re just a dumb kid that nobody should take seriously. It’s designing a knitwear pattern that you pour massive amounts of time, energy, and money into (yes, tech editing and photography don’t come for free), and when people tell you what a talented designer you are, you brush it off with a, “Thanks, but I worry my work is all just kind of derivative of other people’s stuff.”
I feel the imposter syndrome creeping up on me pretty regularly, and when it does, I try to manage it using two techniques I’ve learned over the last few years. The first is I ask myself, “would I allow a dear friend to talk about herself that way?” If the answer is no, then I’m not allowed to say it about myself, either.
The second technique involves asking myself a series of three questions:
Is it true?
Does it help me feel the way I want to feel?
Does it help me achieve the goals I want to achieve?
If the answer to any of those is no, I try to think of a way to reframe my thoughts.
All of this is a bit of a meandering lead-up to what I really want to say today: I’m going to try not to let the imposter syndrome get the better of me going forward. This small burst of blogging toward the end of the year is the warmup for my goal in 2019, which is to share projects and thoughts and fun links a bit more regularly – at least twice a week.
I hope you’ll join me, and if the imposter syndrome is getting to you, too, let’s work on it together.