"Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. 'Imposters' suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence." (Harvard Business Review, May 7, 2008)
One may wonder how Imposter Syndrome is a shadow side problem. Well, a lot of it has to do with that self-doubt and the sense of intellectual fraudulence. That level of insecurity can rob an individual of the rewards of their own successes, and it may even prevent them from sharing their skills.
Keeping in mind that the shadow side is not necessarily bad, elements of that insecurity can certainly keep one's ego in check. It can also compel one to work harder at being better and more confident in the skills in question. It is when it crosses that line of undermining self-worth that it becomes a real problem.
I used to have a real problem with Imposter Syndrome, even with things that I knew very well. I always felt like there was always a better expert on whatever the issue was, and it caused me a lot of stress in my former jobs. The same thing happened in my studies. I learned early on in school with subjects that did not interest me that I could get a lot of traction by guiding my teachers or professors to have low expectations on my reports. They'd expect something that they'd have to bury in the back yard, but, then I'd turn in a decent report, and they'd be so relieved that they'd give me a better grade. At least that is what I thought.
Looking back on some of those things now, I realize that a lot of my reports were more than decent. They were good and solid, particularly for an area that was of little interest to me. To this end, the shadow of low expectations served me pretty well... Yet it took me until my mid-40's to recognize that I had more talent in some areas than I'd ever anticipated.
Public speaking used to be a horror show. I was always nervous about everything from my accent to my stammering to my inability to stand still (though I did stand still for 30 seconds after the Parade of Spirits, so that is progress), etc. Urglaawe cured me of that for subjects that are of interest to me. I don't mind standing up and sharing the results of the research or the theories behind our practices, etc.
Being Steer of The Troth also thickened my skin a bit. I love that organization, but it is often like a bucking bronco, which did have the positive effect of making me less sensitive to criticism.
In my professional career currently, the only time I really deal with Imposter Syndrome is when it comes to some of the intricacies of IEPs and that sort of thing. When I was student teaching, it was a problem all the time, but, now that I know my students and my population, I am far more comfortable. If I were ever to end up with a classroom (as opposed to being an itinerant teacher), it may reappear because it has been so long since I have had to manage a classroom. I am better at dealing with the complicated cases in a traveling setting.
For the most part, Imposter Syndrome is not too much of an issue for my professional and spiritual careers. It is still an element in personal relationships at some levels. After discussing this topic with a coworker, we realized just how much Imposter Syndrome can play a role in interpersonal relationships. Dating was a topic of concern to my coworker, and the images that people project on dating apps may not match what the person senses of him-/her-/themself... Instead, Imposter Syndrome may actually lead them to become actual imposters and to live a lie because the lie is more interesting than the actual self.
The same can happen on social media, where many (most?) people have a tendency to project the best image of themselves. Ironically, this is one of the reasons I am writing about this topic. These public musings on the shadow sides during Voryuul are showing sides of myself that I generally do not reveal until someone knows me pretty well in person. However, my normal Facebook postings are very much me, too. I am, overall, actually a pretty happy, hyper, content man with a wry, dry sense of humor. Yet there are those moments of self-doubt and feelings of being adrift that drag me down. Neither projection is actually an imposter; it is simply the recognition of the totality of me... but within that self-doubt is the occasional questioning of whether my thoughts and opinions are of any value and whether anything that I do actually makes a difference in this world. I am quite sure I am not alone in any of that. The annoying part is that I have no easy solution to those pangs of Imposter Syndrome outside of communication among community members, deliberate and conscious living, and finding joy in belonging (all of which will probably become topics during Yule).
Interestingly, I am about to head into the city to drop off socks from the Yuletide Sock Drive. The temperature is entering Code Blue ranges, and snow squalls are in the forecast. I have done this a few times this week, yet I still found myself yesterday questioning what good I do in the world. Weird stuff, eh? The logical mind may "know" something, but it requires the emotional self to accept that knowledge in order to achieve balance and contentment.
Tomorrow is the final musing for Voryuul and the night the second stag's light goes out.
Hail to the shadow side... For good or for bad, it is a part of each of us.