Me while filling in a job application: I can totally do all that. I’m so good at excel that numbers float off the screen like the Vegas card-counting scene in Hangover.
The day before the new job starts: OMG!! what the hell am I doing. Why did I ever apply for this position? They are going to fire me within the first hour. Maybe I should just not turn up.
This scenario happens over and over again in pretty much all aspects of my life. When I volunteer to present in front of the class or speak to strangers or take on a new task or accept a significant responsibility to host a party or perform in front of a crowd. Pretty much in any new situation which seems like a good idea initially but then as the date approaches, fear sets in. That voice inside that says “What makes you think you have the skills to pull this off?”. Another that says “People are going to laugh at you, you’ll never recover from this humiliation, and your life will be over.” Maybe this is the reason we stop trying new things as we get older and stay in our comfort zones. Hang out with the people we know and stick to our routines.
The constant feeling of being an imposter stops us from overreaching. But according to science, overreaching is what creates growth. Like training your muscles. Lifting weights that is a bit heavier than you can handle causes your muscles to grow, working on problems that are challenging makes you smarter and creates new neurons and pathways in your brain. Similarly, you can build your willpower muscle (i know it’s not a muscle but whatever), determination muscle and grit muscle. If overreaching makes you feel like an imposter but overreaching is actually a good thing then basically every time you feel like an imposter it should be a good thing right? In the weight room, it’s easy to know if you’re overreaching. But in other areas of life maybe imposter syndrome can be the cue to tell if you should continue. A litmus test if you will. If the task you are about to do makes you feel like an imposter then, by all means, do it. If not, then you can probably aim higher.
Ladies and gentlemen, I think I have just invented the imposter syndrome litmus test. You’re welcome. Me on the other hand, have a new job from tomorrow. I’ll console myself that this imposter feeling is a good thing before I puke myself.