You can win awards and be very successful and still feel like an imposter. In fact the more awards and higher the praise the more intense the feeling can become. Maria Walsh, who won the Rose of Tralee competition in Ireland in 2014 and was honoured at the 2015 Irish Tatler Women of the Year Awards admits to crippling moments of insecurity.
Julius Njogu didn’t feel like running the whole 42 kilometers so he just joined in for the last kilometer. He came in in second place which had a prize of $7,000. Unfortunately he got found out because the officials noticed he didn’t look very tired.
How do you know if you’re an imposter or not? After all imposters do exist. We regularly read in the media about con-men who defraud people, people who impersonate doctors, students who get accepted into prestigious colleges without any qualifications. Maybe you’re one of them. Maybe you’ve just been good at fooling people.
Well it’s pretty easy to work out really. To distinguish between real imposters and people who just feel like an imposter you only have to look at the evidence.
A real imposter is a person who pretends or claims to be able to do something or have specific abilities, despite not having the skills, background or experience.
Imposter feelings: Occasional feelings that you are an imposter or fraud despite evidence that you are not. These usually pass and don’t have much impact on what you do.
Imposter syndrome: A person with the imposter syndrome feels like an imposter a lot of the time in spite of clear evidence that they are not. The feelings can be powerful and the person may be convinced that they are a fraud. It will affect what they think, feel and do.
The crucial feature of imposter feelings and the imposter syndrome is that there is clear evidence that you are not an imposter but you still feel like one. So if you want to know whether you are an imposter or not – look at the evidence.
But even though you have the evidence you can still feel like an imposter. And that’s quite normal. In fact up to 70% of people experience imposter feelings. And between 30-50% of people will have consistent imposter feelings that will affect what they think, feel and do – the imposter syndrome.
So are you an imposter? If you have evidence that you have the skills, the knowledge and the qualifications that you claim then you are not an imposter.
What do Meryl Streep (Academy award winner), Sheryl Sandberg (Chief Operating Officer of Facebook) and Gabriel García Márquez (Nobel Prize winner) have in common? At various stages, they have all felt like frauds or imposters, that they don’t have the skills or abilities that other people think they have.
Many of us are waiting for that tap on the shoulder. Or for someone to come along and say “We need to have a chat”. If you’ve ever had that feeling, well, that’s the imposter feeling. And you’re in good company. Lots of people experience it.
[I felt] like an imposter, faking it, that someday they’d find out I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t. I still don’t.
You think, “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”
There are an awful lot of people out there who think I’m an expert. How do these people believe all this about me? I’m so much aware of all the things I don’t know.
These are famous examples. But imposters are to be found everywhere. They could be:
a student wondering if they are clever enough for the exam
a person getting ready for a job interview
a new parent wondering if they are fit to be a parent
someone who has just been promoted to a new challenging job
a sportsperson wondering if they will perform well enough
In fact, most people will have imposter feelings from time to time. It’s pretty normal actually. But sometimes they can get a bit out of control. That’s when the imposter feelings develop into the imposter syndrome. It starts to affect what you do and how you think about yourself.