This blog post is my attempt at articulating a few vague ideas that have been floating around my mind in recent months, so apologies in advance if it’s a bit vague.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me and has ever had to counsel me through a crisis of confidence, that I am not exactly made of self-esteem. This does, however, apparently come as a surprise to people who only know me through social media and my professional activities. I’ve had people tell me that they see me as confident and articulate, and have been surprised to hear, for example, how nervous I get about public speaking. That’s amazingly lovely to hear, but slightly baffling – out of all the words I would choose to describe myself, “confident” and “articulate” are not among them!
Thing is, while I’ve got over most of my “I’m just a fake, anyone could do this better than me, I’ve just been lucky” type hang-ups, I still have lingering doubts about my abilities. I still find myself thinking that I really have just been lucky: sure, I’m good at my job, but there’s probably plenty of people out there who could do it better. And yes, I did very well in my Masters – but everyone knows that LIS Masters degrees don’t have very high academic standards. And yeah, I’ve been lucky enough to win a few awards and bursaries – but hardly anyone applies for those anyway, so they don’t really mean anything.
Does any of the above sound familiar? I suspect that it does, for a lot of people. I’ve recently started noticing more and more people talking about this, confirming that I am a very long way from being the only person in the world who has these kinds of thoughts. I suspect that most of the successful people in the world secretly feel like they’re just winging it, and eventually someone is going to find out.
I’ve heard this mindset described as “Imposter Syndrome“, and I think it’s an inevitable consequence of the well-intentioned advice to “fake it ’til you make it“. While this is generally good advice – if you’re not confident, just pretend you are and people will react to you as if you are, thus making you more confident – it doesn’t address the situation you’re left in once you’ve successfully convinced everyone that you’re the model of confidence and poise. I can’t speak for anyone else, but if I’ve been put in a situation where I have to “fake it” – like a speaking engagement, or a networking event where I don’t know anyone – I can manage it quite well, but I’m still shocked that people don’t see through me. Perhaps this is an indication that I may have mastered the “fake it” side, but haven’t quite got to “make it” yet.
I wonder how much of this goes hand-in-hand with my introvert nature. Being an introvert, I tend to over-think and analyse things, particularly myself. I can really identify with SimonXIX’s recent post about self-awareness (read it if you haven’t already – it’s an absolute masterpiece of overthinking. I mean that in the nicest possible way). Are introverts more likely to suffer from Imposter Syndrome? I don’t know, but I suspect there’s a link. Introverts tend to be highly, perhaps overly, analytical and self-aware. It could be that the root of Imposter Syndrome is really just self-absorption: spending too much time worrying about yourself and how other see you.
I suppose what I am really trying to say in this post is: don’t worry. I do think that librarianship tends to attract more than its fair share of introverts – so I suspect also has more than its fair share of Imposter Syndrome too. With that in mind, I’m willing to bet these ideas will strike a chord with a pretty big chunk of people reading this (I assume that most of the people who read my blog are information professionals – I doubt there’s much here that would be of interest outside of our field!). So, if any of the above sounds familiar, remember: it’s not just you.
At least, I hope not. Because otherwise, it is just me, and this was an embarrassing waste of a blog post…