Can I do this?
I can’t do this.
Any minute now, someone is going to Find. Me. Out.
The voice of the imposter.
The nagging doubt, telling you that you can’t. That you don’t belong. You probably shouldn’t even try. That you are going to mess this up, any minute now. And everyone will know, that you didn’t and you probably never could.
It is the voice of all of the fears.
I recently attended a lecture on Imposter Syndrome at the University of Manchester. The speaker said that around 70% of people agree that they have suffered imposter syndrome at some point in their careers…. and the other 30% might just be lying.
I can remember the last time it happened to me. Two years ago I decided to qualify as a Personal Trainer. I’d been on a personal journey from morbidly obese to running a half marathon. It inspired me to learn more about maximising my own fitness, and a desire to share my learning with others. On the course, there was no one like me. No one just starting out, no one only a little bit fit. No one still carrying around some excess weight and a whole load of insecurities. The course was full of powerful women. Literally. Women who could boss around some big weights. Who were lean and strong and supple. For whom fitness and focus wasn’t something new but something everyday.
And the voice started up. What are you doing in this room? With these people? Just who do you think you are?
The first coffee break came (only they all drank water). Discussions about diet and protein and plans and just how much time did you spend working out in the gym and what is the most you have bench pressed.
Outside of my comfort zone. Inside, all of the fear.
I nearly ran. But I didn’t. I stuck it out, tried not to listen to the voice in my head that said I didn’t belong. That any moment now, someone would find me out.
For me, the learning from the lecture was this. Imposter syndrome is normal. It is something we all experience a little or a lot, at some time in our lives. But it is just a voice, the manifestation of all of our fears. It isn’t reality. There are some true frauds. But it usually isn’t us. To decide whether the voice in our head speaks reality or belief, we must look at the evidence. Often, that evidence points away from suggesting we are an imposter, to something else entirely.
For me, after all of the doubt and the uncertainty, I passed the course after all. No imposter here. Just me, doing the best I can.
You can find the Storify of my tweets from the lecture here.