While it’s certainly true that most of us strive for success in our lives, and for men especially success if largely a cultural expectation, it’s also true that sometimes we feel like a fraud. We ask ourselves how we got that job, that contract. How did we attract that partner? Why is this person even with us? They’ll leave us when they realise how inadequate we are.
People with low self-esteem feel like a fraud most if not all of the time, and there is a very real mental health condition called Impostor Syndrome. For everybody else it is not quite so common, but happens from time to time and it happens enough that we force ourselves to stop and reflect, wonder when we are going to be “found out” and have the rewards of our “fake” accomplishments taken away from us.
I Have It, But You Don’t
Most ironically, we might identify when somebody else is being irrational or is demonstrating signs of Impostor Syndrome, but unable to discern our own. We might dismiss it with that our own incompetence is genuine and not indicative of a “syndrome” at all whereas the attitudes of others is blatant impostor syndrome. You can’t win!
And that’s the problem with feeling like a fraud, you can’t win and you won’t win – at least, not in your own mind. Each time you just get lucky. Each time you are barely getting by, passing by the skin of your teeth and when people tell you “you’re doing well, keep it up” you feel even more like a fraud and that they can’t see it. Core to Impostor Syndrome is the anxiety of eventually being “found out”.
I still get it now. A lifetime of low self-esteem doesn’t die so easily and though I recognise my own strengths and weaknesses, I still feel like a fraud from time to time – like a few weeks ago when a major client of mine gave me a big task to do – a task that could prove pivotal to one of his business ventures.
Think I wasn’t scared? I went for it, of course I did. This client has faith in me and I’m expected to deliver the project by the end of the week. It’s times like this that the self-doubts resurface. Both Mirror Image and I have felt it in the last month – her because she started a new job which is a huge step up from anything she has done before, and me because of the extra responsibility I’ve had from this one client. It’s been a stressful time, but this week we have both started to reap the rewards of what we’ve achieved over the last few weeks. It’s been hard, we’ve been frustrated with each other, I’ve not taken care of myself (as mentioned in my post about securing your own mask first), I’ve been tired and irritable and sleepy.
Even in dating I felt like a fraud. I met some amazing women: gorgeous, intelligent, funny, successful, interesting – yet I felt out of my depth. Each one that agreed to another date I kept wondering “how long will it be before they see I am as inadequate as I know I am?”
Impostor Syndrome is not low self-esteem, in some ways it is quite the opposite. With low self-esteem, you fail to even recognise that you have made a success of anything or that you ever could. Yet, in other ways it is part of the phenomenon of low self-esteem – it’s tied to feelings of not deserving and getting lucky which is how we sometimes excuse our successes.