You caught me! I was lying, I don't deserve it, and other fears from Imposter Syndrome

If you are like me, you will resonate with this experience:

You enter a space with people that look like they have jobs where they travel across the globe for work, will easily drop a pretty penny on a great wardrobe, have a widely diversified investment portfolio, have networks out the wazoo, and comfortably paid $250 for a ticket  to this event without a second thought. You remind yourself to keep your head high, shoulders square, don't make direct eye contact but keep your chin up, and look like you know where you're going. You get in the wrong line, labeled "delegates" - shit. Then shift over to the "guest" line where you pick up your badge. You drop off your fancy looking Forever21 jacket (that you got on clearance) to coat check and turn away before the staff person judges where you shop. You find the coffee, grab a cup, pickup breakfast, and wander around until you can find a seat. You choose someone who is on their phone in hopes that they don't look up so that you can eat your breakfast quietly and people watch. He instead interacts with you and you have to switch on your customer service personality and bring to the forefront all the networking videos you watched on YouTube. In order to not expose your true identity you ask as many probing questions as you can, like a curious child who knows how to keep a conversation. As the minutes tick by, an announcer asks everyone to take their seats. With an internal sigh of relief, you say farewell and ask for their name again before departing. Whew, that wasn't as terrible as I thought. 

That was my entire experience while attending TEDxToronto.

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In my opinion, attending a TEDx event is a signal of success and I felt like I didn't deserve to be in that space - I felt like a fraud.

Psychology calls this impostor syndrome.

"This psychological phenomenon, known as impostor syndrome, reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful."

- Melody Wilding via Fast Company

Imposter syndrome tends to relate to career achievements such as landing a promotion, being assigned a team to lead, or spearheading a project. Imposter syndrome is the little voice in one's head saying "you don't deserve this" or "you aren't good enough/skilled enough/experienced enough/talented enough to do this" or "this is great, I hope they don't find out that I'm not ready (when really, you've been ready for years)".

For example:

  • “I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?” (Meryl Streep, Actress)
  • “I convince myself I’m fooling people.” (Jonathan Safran Foer, Novelist)
  • “Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud.” (Emma Watson, Actress)
  • “I felt inadequate the entire time I was in graduate school.” (Rosalyn Lang, Ph.D.)
  • ‘Even though I had sold 70 million albums, there I was feeling like “I’m no good at this.” (Jennifer Lopez, Singer)

I want to wrap up this post by sharing Wes Moore's advice for overcoming imposter syndrome.