Do we ever feel we deserve our success or that our accomplishments are in fact real? Women often don’t but I suspect men don’t always either.
This week I am back from a spot of winter sun. Leaving cold England for Abu Dhabi (trust me, it’s hotter than July at midday) is no hardship. But on some level it wasn’t easy. Because I was in the company of some of the biggest and most accomplished brains out in the world of science, policymaking, development, leadership – and somewhat to my surprise, I was supposed to be one of them. The occasion? The annual gathering of the World Economic Forum’s policymaking groups, the Global Agenda Councils, http://www.weforum.org. Let me correct that. I am one of them. I sit on a Council and have done for three years.
But as soon as I arrived I found myself suffering from Imposter Syndrome. http://www.fastcompany.com/3020966/leadership-now/do-you-have-imposter-syndrome-or-are-you-actually-qualified-for-your-job. Perhaps I should be grateful that I am not alone – According to Fast Company Magazine, Harvard Business School students who should feel on top of the world, often feel they will be outed as academic fraudsters.
Luckily, I did not stay in this false and paranoid universe for long. For a start, the World Economic Forum is extremely well run, and places friendliness and networking at a premium. The minute you connect with another human being you forget that they may be one of the top chemists from Cambridge University or Economist from Shanghai, or that they have published more academic papers than you have books on your shelves. Finding common conversational ground is the best antidote to isolation.
But something else corrected the skewed self-image. I feel keenly interested in the topic I was there to contribute to – The Council on Informed Societies – and realised that far from being invited like a random lottery winner, I had as much to contribute as anyone else. Duh! So I became saved by common sense but also by content: It is hard to feel useless if you are craning forward in the discussion.
I hope those of you who occasionally, perhaps more often, gulp inwardly and feel horribly underdressed professionally or intellectually remember this: the operative word is not “imposter” but “syndrome”.