I’m not sure, if you’re one of them. But a lot of us are. Rather a lot of us feel that way. We feel like we are faking it all the time. For instance, there’s an accomplished dancer who thinks she’s not a dancer at all. Like she is someone who’s fooling the audience through her performances and they believe her, somehow. There are some writers, good ones, brilliant even, who think they cant write. They believe they are duping their readers. And the books they have written have been written by fluke, by chance. They drown in self doubt and wonder if they will be able to repeat their success, because they were not supposed to succeed in the first place. Then there are actors, directors, entrepreneurs who find it difficult to believe in their talent. Who feel they have been faking it all this while, and they will be exposed. Any moment.
You know, for a long time, I thought I was alone, in this. Like it was only me who failed to internalise the extent of my work, but then I was pleasantly surprised to find out that, well, this isn’t something rare. In fact, it happens to many and there’s even a name for it. It’s called the imposter syndrome (IS). Wiki describes it as a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.Take a look at what some of the well known people have to say about the Imposter Syndrome. Note to self: Yay! You’re not alone, weirdo.
“Sometimes I wake up in the morning before going off to a shoot, and I think, I can’t do this. I’m a fraud.” Kate Winslet
“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, and they’re going to find me out.’” Maya Angelou
“I still think people will find out that I’m really not very talented. I’m really not very good. It’s all been a big sham.” Michelle Pfeifer
I am not a high achieving person or famous. Heck, I’m not. I ain’t Sylvia Plath or Guru Dutt. But I do feel that I’ve just got lucky. Like all that I’ve written till now, is a fluke. Or the work I’ve done has happened in a dream. In an alternate reality, maybe. But not here on earth. I know I’m not supposed to feel that way. My detractors should. Or my ill wishers. Quite funnily, it’s me.
You must have watched Catch me if you can, or closer at home, Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye…? When you suffer from IS, you feel like Lucky (from the film played by Abhay Deol) or Frank Abagnale ( played by the hugely talented Leonardo DiCaprio). You feel like a fraud. A glib talker, a charismatic performer or a genius writer, who is admired and liked by people. But you know and you believe strongly that you’re none of those. You’re you. And that you is not an achiever.
When you feel this way, you’re shrouded by self doubt. Each day is an internal struggle. Each victory, big or small is wrecked by pessimism. And it’s not a good place to be in. So here’s how, you can fight some of your demons. In fact, this is a note to self. Because I fight it everyday.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. I mean, don’t write a book half-heartedly or paint a dreadful picture, give it your all, but do disassociate once it’s done. Don’t get stuck, with what if… Move on and work on the next book, the next painting…
- Detach. Whenever I think detachment, I think Bhagwad Gita. So here goes.
karmany evadhikaras te
ma phalesu kadachana
ma karma-phala-hetur bhur
ma te sango ’stv akarmani (Bhagwat Gita: Chapter Two verse 47)
Sri Krishna says to Arjuna: You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to inaction.
- You are successful because of you. This is what I need to believe. This is what we all gotta drill in, somehow. No one, but you deserve this success. You could have let the opportunity go, but you seized it. You could have said, no, but instead you said, yes. You could have been lazy and not finished what you started, but you did, didn’t you…?
- Surround yourself with hope. You know it’s a long journey. And there will be ups and downs. Some days will be great. Some bad. Some not so bad. On those days, when you’re fighting your monsters, choose to remember the good words — the words of encouragement. If you’re a writer, pick an honest (unpaid and unsolicited) review that lets you believe in yourself. Or the mail that an editor may have written to praise your book.
- Help. We are all in a position to help. I mean honestly, blogging helps me and it’s also my way of helping others, like me. So yes, if you can do something, anything to help, please do. It will help you more than anyone else.
- Don’t look. Stay immersed in your work. Stay focussed on helping others. Don’t compare or peep in. These days, it’s kind of difficult to do that. And social media isn’t helping either. I mean none of us want to hear how much others are achieving or are pretending to. So let’s keep the social media where it belongs, in the virtual space. And keep our eyes on us.
- Use-case it. What’s a use case? In software and systems engineering, a use case is a list of actions or event steps, typically defining the interactions between a role (known in the Unified Modeling Language as an actor) and a system, to achieve a goal. In other words, it’s a scenario where if one or more parameters are put in, some thing will happen. So if you type 60, 000 words (more or less), you’ll have a book. If you write 500 words everyday, in a year, you will have 2 books. Whether you’ll be published, whether post publication, your book will sell or get shelved is something you can’t control. But if you’ve written it, you’ve accomplished something. And there’s no way you can fake-write so many words.
- Creativity is like fishing. You catch it. Most of what we’ve written, the ideas we’ve expressed, the thoughts we think are authentic and original as hell, are actually not. They have been said before, written somewhere, spoken on other platforms. There are no original ideas. So don’t kill yourself over being something, no one is. Instead, be happy that you thought of something and built a book around it or made a movie out of it.
- Failure is inevitable. A lot of people who are successes now, have failed and failed miserably at some point. No one can succeed without failure. So never ever stop moving forward because you fear failure.
- No one else can tell your story. You’ll have to do it. Because no else will tell it the way, you can. So make that movie. Write that book. Sing that song. Start that startup.
- You cant fake it, for long. So if you’ve been faking it, chances are you’ve become the character you play. If you’ve written 5 books, you most definitely have ended up becoming a writer. Like they say, almost everyone has a book within them. But only a few write a second.
- Nothing lasts forever. Everything is transient. But the work you do may live forever. So focus on your work, which is much larger than yourself.