Why powerful and intelligent women deny themselves the satisfaction of their achievements
These women genuinely believe they have convincingly fooled the world and that in reality they just got lucky.
- Total Shares
For years I’ve lived with the fear of being found out. I’m not exactly sure what I’m hiding or from whom, but this nagging feeling of being a fraud does not leave me. It started way back when I was a popular pre-teen gang leader. As I spearheaded one ridiculous adventure after another, I couldn’t understand for the life of me why I was being allowed to lead. There was no way I was going to stop and think, that would make the squealing squad realise that I didn’t have a clue. So I kept lagging and conning my way through, and, to my sheer surprise, was celebrated and cheered on.
A few years later, to forestall the impending humiliation of failing an entire school year, I decided to study and, much to my astonishment, I topped an all India board. It was too much of a miracle and, in my heart, I knew the board had misgraded and made a huge mistake in my favour because there was no way I could have aced that exam, frankly, I don’t even think I had completed it. Be that as it may, I wasn’t going to be my own party-pooper, so I danced the deceit away. This became the story of my life. More often than not, the universe conspired to hand me the blessed life I didn’t deserve. I was living a lie and the only person not happy about it was me. Deception hunts and haunts, and all my moments of exhilarating triumphs were marred by the hollowness of the fraudulence.
It’s only now I realise that I suffer from impostor syndrome (TBT, partially). For the unacquainted: it’s a system of successful self-sabotage, where you deny yourself any internal feeling of satisfaction or deserving, no matter how colossal your achievements may be. Essentially, you feel like an impostor of your own life. Powerful, intelligent and indisputably able women are the most susceptible to this feeling. These women genuinely believe they have convincingly fooled the world and that in reality they just got lucky. These are the same women who systematically work the hardest, juggling the many balls of career, family and play, yet they don’t buy into their own accomplishments. They live in constant fear of failure, of the bubble bursting and the truth being revealed. Psychologists have written theses about why, when and how this condition afflicts people.
Photo: Mail Today
I have my own theory and since I’m suffering from a twisted version of this disorder, as a victim I think I should be heard. Part of the disbelief and dissatisfaction comes because these so-called impostors are good at or have an innate talent for what they do, so it comes easier to them than it would to others. The work they put in doesn’t feel like work because they love what they do, or are addicted to the adrenaline of attaining, or are just that much more gifted.
In addition to this, most of the time they toil in complete secret to offset any chance of failure by brushing it off as something they never endeavoured for in the first place. They’re so good at being covert workers that they even trick themselves into thinking there is no exertion involved even when they are pulling 23 hour days and that everything falls into place by providence.
Observing my pattern of secret, silent striving my father dubbed this the “duckling syndrome”. During exam time, he would say, “Koël, you’re just like a duck. You want to give off the image of a serene, quacking exterior while your little webbed feet are paddling really hard to keep you afloat.” Then he would add, “As long as you are not fooling yourself.” This is the key to why we feel like phonies. We are fooling nobody but ourselves. I have rarely felt that I’ve busted my butt to achieve anything. It’s only when I am able to see myself through the eyes of someone who knows me well that I see all that I am is because I have worked at it and for it. If we self-sufferers could just shake off this crippling feeling of guilt of the undeserving, we could own our lives and kick the pretender out.
Though I show most of these symptoms I can only claim to be afflicted partially. I really do land on my feet with minimal effort. I am the chosen child. The blessed being. I scrape through by the skin of my teeth. Before you think I am being self-deprecating: I have discussed, reviewed and argued about books I have read four pages of with the authors who wrote them and gotten praised for it. I have fought over films that I’ve only seen trailers of with the filmmakers who made them and been told I saw a layer they missed. I have talked my way into being the only viable choice for a Japan tourism mascot and I speak five words in Japanese.
I have lost count of how often I have winged it and hoped for the best and gotten away with it, admired. My guilt, unlike the authentic phony impostors, is unfortunately justified and real. I’m just hoping not to be found out any time soon.
(Courtesy of Mail Today.)