My kids play a lot of Among Us. I often hear them yelling from the other room about finding the “imposter,” and I’ll be honest, I still don’t totally understand what it means. I guess they’re trying to find the imposter and expose it? Get rid of it? Ask it if it wants to join their work from home #bossbabe side hustle?
Whatever they’re doing in there, here’s what I do know: I get an unsettling icy feeling in my stomach every time I hear them say the word imposter. That word seems to land in my consciousness in a way that feels unfamiliar and yet, all too familiar.
I am a highly accomplished person, but I spend an incomprehensible amount of time wondering if I’m actually a fraud. Torturing myself with the idea that I lucked my way into every success I’ve ever had; that people only give me opportunities because I know how to manipulate them; that I’m not actually smart, or talented, or likable.
That I’m just a fraud.
There is a name for this. It’s called Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is the persistent belief that your success is not deserved, and was not legitimately achieved as a result of your own effort or skills. Paradoxically, it’s also associated with the chronic belief that your failures are deserved, and are a result of your own lack of effort and skill.
In essence, it is a posture of disbelief in your own worth. It is a crisis of identity.
I have spent years doing battle with my imposter syndrome. Most days, it’s not even something that comes to my mind anymore. But when I am in the process of doing something meaningful to me, like trying something new, putting myself out there in a way that makes me feel vulnerable, or branching out of my comfort zone, the imposter comes banging on my door.
You can’t do it
You don’t deserve it
Everyone is waiting for you to fail
As easy as ever, the imposter tells me I am not worthy. I am not capable.
We all have an imposter living in us. It exists in the part of our consciousness that wants to protect us from being hurt or let down. Its intent is to make us avoid failure, and it accomplishes this by making us avoid trying at all. Don’t try, and you won’t fail. Don’t feel, and you won’t get hurt. Don’t jump, and you won’t fall. In a weird way, our internal imposter is looking out for us.
This is something I’ve spent a lot of time coming to terms with in therapy. I do Parts Work, which basically involves getting to know all the different “parts” of my identity, making them feel seen and heard, and working to integrate all of these parts into a higher “self.” One thing we talk about a lot in my therapy sessions is that there are no bad parts. All of our parts exist for our good, even the ones who seem unbalanced or unhelpful. My imposter part doesn’t realize it’s hurting me when I choke down the lies it feeds me. It thinks it’s sustaining me.
If you have an imposter part, one who constantly tells you that you aren’t enough, here is what I need you to know:
You are worthy. You are capable.
You have deserved every success you’ve had. You earned it.
You are likable. Yes, you are lovable even.
You are not a burden.
People want to hear what you have to say.
You have a purpose, and life is heading you toward it.
Your beautiful, resonant, breathtaking higher self is visible to the world.
You are unique and special. In every way.
You deserve to reach. You deserve to grasp. You deserve to try.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Erin Hanson. It is one I reflect on often:
There is freedom waiting for you
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, what if I fall?
But darling, what if you fly?