I’ve heard many people talk about imposter syndrome over the years, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it summarised as neatly as The School of Life does in this video about it:
The root cause of the importer syndrome is a hugely unhelpful picture of what other people are really like.
This simple sentence sums up the entire problem. We look at people who are more successful than us, or who we admire, and we imagine their internal world to be completely different to ours.
“How can they possibly experience self-doubt?” we ask ourselves. They have millions of fans, or are well respected by their peers, or have won prestigious awards. “How can they ever feel as if their opinions stupid?” Everything they say is so insightful and clever. “How can they ever worry about how they look?” They’re always so well presented.
This may all be true. The people we admire have very likely reached a point in their careers or their lives where they are surrounded by evidence of their ability. Yet current success doesn’t guarantee future success. Many very successful people admit that they still worry about how their new work will be received. Rather than freeing them from doubt, success simply moves the bar which separates success from failure.
Self-doubt is a human trait, not a trait which only afflicts an unfortunate few, or which fades once a certain arbitrary point has been reached. The thing which separates people who succeed from this who don’t is the ability to persevere despite any feelings of doubt they might have, not the fact that they don’t have them.