I had surgery a little over a month ago.
And while I now have the scars and the still-persistent fatigue to prove it, an ever persistent part of me is convinced my professors secretly believe I’m a fraud.
All of them could have literally been in the OR, watching a team of surgeons lording over my prone form, and I’d still be sitting here doubting that my time off was deserved.
It’s the same story with every single job or internship, about every relationship I’ve been in over the past almost twenty-three years I’ve been around. Sooner or later, everyone will find out that I’m a fraud.
Even when I’m not. Especially when I’m not.
The entire world has a training manual you were never given. Except that’s not even the case.
Thousands of people suffer from the delusion that they’re not qualified or deserving of success. Even if their resume is a mile and a half long or if they’ve got all the affirmation they could ever need from the people in their life.
If you’re a minority in any way, whether racial and ethnic and/or in terms of your sexual orientation or gender identity (I happen to fall into the latter two categories), your chances of experiencing Imposter Syndrome are that much higher. It doesn’t take Sherlock, Watson, and Hercule to figure that when you’ve spent your entire life being judged, you don’t know what to do when no one’s questioning your body or every decision you’ve ever made.
No one has their hands on the training manual. Everyone else is a fraud too. And I mean everyone. Your doctor, your rabbi, your mom, your best friend from third grade, the guy at the Safeway deli counter.
Don’t take that to mean that they’re frauds in that insufferably Banksy way. But chances are more than likely that the people around you are just as consumed by doubt about their achievements and their abilities as the two of us put together.
So what can you do?
It won’t do much good for me to remind you that you’re really as accomplished as your resume or achievements say you are. Though let’s be absolutely clear here. You are and you deserve every accolade you’ve ever earned.
Hell, you may never feel like you’re ever good enough or that you’re not a fraud. I’m in the same boat.
Instead, I try to acknowledge my sense of doubt, my fear of inadequacy, and channel it into self-improvement. That goes for work, my personal life, my writing- just about anything I can do on a regular basis, I focus on. If I feel like I don’t deserve an accomplishment? I do what I can to bolster my experience so that I have something to show for it.
For everything else, I try to make peace with my neuroses.
It doesn’t always work. But if I can acknowledge that I’m judging myself in a light that no one else does, I can start to believe myself. And that’s what counts.