(last updated on April 29, 2014)
Lauren Bacon has a really great article on Imposter Syndrome, the tendency for some people to not acknowledge recognition for their accomplishments because they feel it isn’t deserved for one reason or another. I suffer from this myself every time someone calls me an “expert”; I instantly demure, saying that I only write about what I experience, and that my knowledge and skills are not all-encompassing enough, blah blah. I hate disappointing people, and I rationalize my behavior by telling myself it’s prudent not to raise the hopes of others, since that would leave them open to the dangerous repercussions that might come from following whatever so-called advice I had. It also has prevented me from really pushing the various productivity forms I’ve made, because I’m not 100% sure that they will work for everyone. In fact, I’m sure they won’t work for everyone. People tell me I’m being silly, but I still haven’t resolved the WHY and HOW of it.
That is, until today. Lauren makes the observation that there’s a difference between expertise and infallibility, and proceeds to dissect the ramifications of not embracing your own expertise. Take heart! There are plentiful reasons why you should overcome imposter syndrome.
What I am reminded of is that there’s an underlying moral imperative that exists for me: while I didn’t want to inadvertently lead people astray with my pedantic mumblings, to not stand up for what I’m saying does not help people either. I want to see people overcome their own self-imposed barriers and achieve the kind of happiness they can share with the world. In that context, I owe it to myself as part of this community of happiness-seekers to powerfully broadcast the signal.
What I don’t like about the “expert” label is that I think it implies “superiority”. It also promises “superlative excellence”, which creates expectation, and expectation is the fertile minefield where disappointment lurks. As I hate disappointing people, I tend to avoid setting high expectations for my forms, which in turn diminishes their appeal because it looks like I don’t believe in them. However, I think I can reframe “expert” as a label not for myself, but for others who are looking for something. It’s part of being a beacon or a repeater of certain positive memes. That is a responsibility that I should be willing to take, as uncomfortable as it makes me feel, because it’s good for me and for my imagined tribe, whoever they may be. This feels a little half-baked to me still, but it’s a start.
Anyway, Lauren’s article is an insightful jumping-off point for examining your own imposter syndrome, if you happen to have it banging around inside your head. If you’re a procrastinator or have felt that that your own misgivings embarrass or hold you back, you may find this an enlightening read.