I vividly remember the day I first heard about “Imposter Syndrome”. It could be defined as a psychological phenomenon that makes people who suffer from it feel that they are never equal to the circumstances or that they feel that they don’t deserve what they have obtained as a result of their work. It has to do with not being able to assess one’s own skills and competencies realistically and objectively. For example, when faced with professional challenges, the person may feel that they are an impostor who pretends to have enough to perform, or even attributes their achievements (such as getting a job, a promotion, building a profitable company, etc.) to external factors, like luck.
I remember it because at that moment I discovered that there was a name for what was happening to me and because the people involved in the conversation had also experienced it and were just as amazed as I was that this feeling was not just an individual issue related to low self-esteem.
Although we couldn’t generalize and it is difficult to define for whom, when and how we know what “qualifies” as impostor syndrome and when other complex and very personal variables come into play, it seemed remarkable to me that there were factors in common between all of us: we were women , Latinas, mestizas, migrants, in their thirties, young professionals, we had studied careers related to the arts and humanities and had chosen not to be mothers at the moment.
What would be my interpretation? Even coming from particular conditions and realities (physical, family, contextual, social, and political), it is very likely that we have faced similar challenges. I was thinking, for example, of the challenge of making a professional path for us as women, in a world that is still moving towards equal gender conditions. This has surely involved demanding rights, giving up jobs that we did not deserve and pursuing our desires and dreams.
I was thinking about trying to inhabit our body from acceptance and love, even when the system tells us that it is not enough, that it is not adequate, that it is not worthy. Also, in the bodily autonomy that implies deciding not to mother, when our existence and our sexuality are still usually associated with procreation. Or when one has to move to another country and inhabit a new territory, and the capacity for adaptation and gratitude that is cultivated in the process.
All of this gave me perspective, because I realized that, as people who had experienced the syndrome, objectively, we were not impostors. We are offering real resistance and we are deserving of all that we have obtained not only on a personal level, but also socially and culturally.
Another point in common in this group is that we work for start-ups or had decided to be freelancers (like many of us who are millennials). In these particular dynamics, the knowledge and opinion of each one is decisive. Orders from an unattainable hierarchy are not blindly followed, one works effectively and resolutely. Responsibility is taken for actions, failures, and successes. In this sense, it is very difficult to really be an impostor, because you cannot pretend that you occupy a position that is too big for you, you must act and that action, no matter how small it may seem, has a real purpose.
There is definitely a lot of work to do to overcome, at least at times, the feeling of being an impostor. For example, objectively try to self-assess us, practice self-affirmation and self-recognition of one’s own strengths and with this, also courageously recognize and work on weaknesses. Learn to identify our emotions and distinguish, for example, humility, fear, and guilt more accurately. All this introspective work is just as valuable as sharing what happens to us, because by becoming aware that others are also going through similar processes, we can not only relieve ourselves, but also accompany and inspire us. I’m sure that day’s revealing conversation about impostor syndrome made us question and broaden our limited perspective.