The Plight of the Impostor...

Fraud. Hack. Wannabe: Three adjectives I've often used to describe myself. Many people probably think I'm joking when I say it too, that I'm actually self-deprecating on purpose because I truly believe that my accomplishments are noteworthy. If only I were that arrogant.

The thing is, I shrink from praise. I tend to downgrade most of what I do because I truly believe that others can do it better. Take this blog, for instance. I have spoken previously about how I'd love to take it to the next level. How I'd love to find a way to actually do this for a living, or at the very least, for a meager paycheck that could supplement my drinking habit income. But it doesn't happen because I read other people's work and I don't feel it measures up. I also start books I never finish. Why? Because if it ends up being really good and someone wants to publish it, they might expect me to write ANOTHER one, and I won't be able to, which means I'll look like a total phony. A one-hit wonder. Somehow, not publishing at all seems more preferrable to that kind of humiliation.

I embark on educational endeavors that I am convinced I will never complete, or will never pay off because I'm still not confident that I will not be hired. They will look at my grades and they will look at me, and they will see a discrepancy. I got an A+ on my Abnormal Psych exam last night, and I was convinced that it was somehow fixed, and I shudder at the thought of anyone else (particularly my peers in the class) finding out about it. Why? Because they will see me as an ass-kisser, or a "know it all," both untrue labels.

I didn't know that this set of erroneous thoughts actually had a proper designation until last night. My teacher/friend wanted to tell everyone that I got a perfect score on his test, noted the look of stark-eyed panic on my face, and then offered up a diagnosis. It's referred to as Impostor Syndrome, and it's defined by Wikipedia (and other sources) as not being able to "internalize one's own accomplishments." It doesn't matter what kind of success you've achieved -- you are convinced that you do not deserve it, and that you fooled others to get it.

It's also characterized by this unshakable anxiety, one that keeps a person from accomplishing their heart's greatest dreams and desires for fear that they will be "found out" for the fraud they really are. As a result, they procrastinate or don't do anything at all.

So continues this battle between the external and the internal. People can tell me I'm smart, and to a certain extent I believe them. Certainly I'm not an idiot, but the same can be said for the majority of people. That doesn't make me special. That makes me normal. Big whoop! I'm normal!

Internally, I think: "There is NOTHING that you can do that hasn't been done by millions of people already. You're not creative enough. You're stuck inside the box and you'll never be able to think outside it. You think you want to write a book? Be a professional blogger? Have your own syndicated column? So do about a gazillion other people, sweetheart. You think you're better than them? Stop pretending. Get a certificate in medical billing and go to work like everyone else."

My friend predicts that in a few years, I will shake this Impostor Syndrome. Actually, he said that "God told him" that it would be in April of 2011 that this would happen. I told him that if God spoke to him, of all people, then there might be hope.

Anyway, I'm not writing about my ailment in order to garner attention, compliments, etc. I'm writing about it because I know some people who suffer from the very same thing, and they also might not know about it. They might wonder why they've always been afraid to reach higher in life. They, like me, might think they are smart enough for a 2-year college degree, but feel like once they actually reach the next phase they will find that their luck has run out.

In that case, I hope I don't have to wait longer than 4 years to get past this. In 4 years, I intend to have at least a Master's Degree, and I'd like to think I'd be able to put it to use for something.


  1. Quit being a chicken, if every author, blogger, musician felt like this, there wouldnt be any. You dont have to better than everyone, just be the best you can and let th echips fall where they may. Cheers Allie!!

  2. Yeah, I bet that's what shitty authors like Dean Koontz and shitty bands like Air Supply tell themselves every day. LOL

  3. Interesting psychobabbly confessional post, miss cheesy...

    I felt like I just got trapped in a living room with a broke TV and a disheartened woman needing to talk...

    OK OK. So not that bad...

    I am just stalling until a lightbulb goes on in my frozen mind and things start working...


    One of the trademarks of successful people is their ability to handle doubt. I have been around some incredibly talented and successful people and they all doubt, but they also presson.

    Intellectually, you miss the biggest picture of all. Your consciousness is a miracle so huge it is beyond comprehension.So far, there is not a single person on the planet who can fully explain how you came to be in and of this world. That's fucking amazing.

    And being that amazing, how can you NOT have complete confidence in your amazingness?

    Tell me!

    So what is really lacking in you is your ability to see yourself in relationship to the universes all swimming around out there...

    The smaller stuff like writing a novel or finishing school is peepee compared to everything else.

  4. That blonde chick that's as tall as you!January 17, 2007 at 6:04 PM

    Sweetie, I think we must be twins because everything you wrote describes exactly how I feel about myself. I know I'm smart - enough, but I'm nothing special (crap, maybe we're different in that you really ARE special, and i'm dead on about myself . . . ) but I digress. . . you're VERY smart, hell, Bart told me so, and if he thinks you are, then it MUST be true!

  5. Scott -- I think you freakin nailed it, especially with this part:

    "I felt like I just got trapped in a living room with a broke TV and a disheartened woman needing to talk..."

    Okay, not that part, so much (I just thought that was cute) but this:

    "So what is really lacking in you is your ability to see yourself in relationship to the universes all swimming around out there..."

    That is a HUGE thing with me. It is, in fact, probably the essential truth of my existence.

    Gwen -- Hey you! I'm so happy you stopped by!! And goshdarn it, you are NOT allowed to say I'm special and you're not. I've read your blogs. You are a VERY intelligent, special person yourself!

  6. Well, I am glad I was so easily able to resolve your conflict for you...

    Any other questions?

  7. OMG! I can totally relate to this. I felt the same way when I was doing my student teaching. I got A's on everything and felt like somehow I was just the teacher's pet. I thought they must not be able to see how much I suck when I'm standing in front of the class or that the whole thing was a complete act.

    Don't even get me started on unfinished books or my inferiority complex about my blog.

    Jeebus. Are there books on this? I need a drink.

  8. Hmm, this explains a lot about the past several years of my life. Very interesting.

  9. Harper Lee only wrote one book. I'd be willing to go out on a limb and say that it was pretty good.

  10. an a+ in abnormal psych? honey this isn't news, don't you see the irony? and don't get your panties all in a knot, okay? you are abnormal enough already. sorry i just found all that hysterical!!!

    you write beautifully. or i wouldn't bother to come here and read it. there are plenty of blogs i just skim, i READ yours. know what i mean?

    now smile you abnormal freak!!! bee

  11. I have the same issue you do believe it or not. If you happen to get past it in the next four years, let me know how you pulled it off. ;)


  12. Remember that Al Franken character -- Stuart Smiley or somesuch name -- who said something to the effect that 'I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people Like me.'
    Face it, Allie: YOU ARE good enough and smart enough to do anything you want. And doggone it, people LOVE you, girl.

  13. it looks like a lot of people feel the way you do, myself included, and a lot of people think you're amazing... I think you're a wonderful writer, you could probably kick Koontz's ass, and you're much better looking than Air Supply. There are a lot universes, focus on yours and how special you are in it and to it.

    ...and knowing the psych test is rigged is part of the test. A++.

  14. I was going to write something really special to you Allie, but I'm afraid I'm all out of love. I'm so lost without you. I can't be too late...ACK! See what happens when you mention Air Supply? Are you happy, now?!

  15. I was gonna say how I think you’re a fantastic writer with a wit that’s sharper than a pimp’s suit and with an awesome insight into the modern, slothful suburban psyche. I was gonna say that you’re definitely exceptional, and anything BUT normal. I was gonna say all that, but seeing as though you’re not garnering attention and complements, I won’t bother.