Some weeks ago, during our Tuesday counseling professional development, we were introduced to a new Career Skills Program. This one is an opportunity for transitioning Service Members to learn a highly sought-after set of skills to work in Information Technology. But while I came away impressed with what the 18-week training program offered, I learned about something else too; something highly applicable to myself and many others.
The presenter brought up the concept of Imposter Syndrome: the feeling you don’t belong in your role because you are a phony or fraud, or you are there only because of dumb luck, and at any moment, you could be found out and sent packing. Our presenter told us that overcoming this mindset was critical to success, but it was more difficult than learning those highly sought-after high-tech skills.
What he explained about Imposter Syndrome hit home for me. I feel like I have been faking it my entire life. It was what drove me to push through dyslexia to be placed in the top reading groups during my elementary years, to kick and pull harder to win races in the swimming pool, and to earn nearly all the Girl Scout badges while a Junior Scout. Later, it had me putting all my effort into the news articles and editorials I wrote for the high school newspaper, giving it my all in every job I’ve ever worked from fast food to legal administrative work, to television graphics, to teaching high school, and finally, educational counseling. Perhaps all the above are positives coming out of that feeling of inadequacy. However, it still doesn’t explain why I lack a belief in my own abilities and the faith those around me will recognize I have those abilities.
Despite knowing a solid work ethic is part of my DNA, I still feel like I must prove myself worthy of being in the positions I am in. Yes, it drives me to dig deeper to find the perfect fit in academic programs for those I now serve and to understand how to help maximize the educational benefits they have earned. But despite being in this line of work for a year now, I still feel like I am drinking from a fire hose, and at any moment, I’ll be recognized for what I am; knowing just enough to be dangerous.
Without realizing what Imposter Syndrome was, I had incorporated it, as a motif, into my serial fiction series, An Operator’s Daughter. Frequently, my characters give and take that advice, that sometimes you must fake it until it becomes a habit, and you truly believe you have what it takes to do it, whatever “it” may be.
So, here is my advice to myself, and to you: it is okay to fake it, to give the appearance you know what you are doing, to try, and sometimes get it wrong, fall down, fail, as long as you pick yourself up and keep on trying. Fake it until you see success and feel you belong.