Physicist Albert Einstein once said, “The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.”
On one occasion actor Jim Carrey remarked, “If I remain worthless in my mind, I will be the king of show business.”
Maya Angelou the famous poet was quoted as saying, “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody.”
These remarkable people have one thing in common. They suffered from imposter syndrome. Coined by Pauline Chance and Suzanne Imes, it is the persistent notion of uncertainty, anxiety or illegitimacy despite evidence to the contrary.
We hear from colleagues afflicted by imposter syndrome in comments like:
• Anyone could have helped that customer.
• My team deserves all the credit.
• It was just my lucky day.
• I had some connections.
According to the Center for Creative Leadership, 60% of successful professionals will suffer from imposter syndrome at some point in their career.
It appears to particularly trouble women. Women tend to downplay their readiness for promotions, self-sabotage themselves on tests and for the most part underestimate their abilities when compared to men. Women will not apply for job vacancies unless they meet 83% of the job requirements while men will apply for the same job openings if they meet 17% of the job criteria according to the Women Initiative Network.
Are we all frauds? Are we all just faking it till we make it? Why can’t we be like actress Tina Fey who said, “I just realized that everyone is a fraud, so I try not to feel so bad about it?”
Maybe the cure for imposter syndrome is not to be perfect but to be good enough. That should be easier enough to achieve at least by government standards.
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