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Living As An Impostor (33.7)

July 31, 2014

Our dishwasher went on the fritz a few weeks ago, making this terrible noise at the beginning of the wash cyle that made us furrow our brows but did not make us stop washing dishes in it. Because we are rebels that way.

We did some issue specific googling for things like "dishwasher noise" and "is our dishwasher going to explode" and "what is wrong with our dishwasher this appliance thing is basically magic halp" and settled on calling someone to look at it.

The details are really mundane and whatever, but it resulted in us having to make a pretty adult decision about it.

And lo it came to pass that a decision was made with the available information, and it probably wasn't the right one, and I was reminded that making adult decisions suck because we never have enough information to be confident that the decision made was the Right One. And if it's not the Right One, then it could only be the Wrong One.

Cue some depressing texts to my husband about the suckiness of adulthood and the futility of ever making any decision.

No matter what decision I make, a part of me knows it's the wrong one.

No matter how much shit I get done, a part of me knows that there was so much more I should have done.

No matter what I accomplish, a part of me knows that it was a fluke.

No matter how far I've come, a part of me knows that others are more deserving.

No matter how many people think and say I'm great, a part of me knows they will soon find out I've been faking it all along.

There are times where I feel like I'm on the brink of screwing Everything up, and then Everyone will realize I'm a capital-f Fraud (source: the Onion). Like I have fooled everyone into thinking I am qualified and competent.

When something good happens - I am offered a promotion, a compliment, some recognition - I chalk it up to luck and have a number of justifications lined up to explain why it had nothing to do with me or my abilities.

These are the times when my entire outlook on life is filtered through this impostor syndrome: all of my coworkers and friends have their shit more together, are more articulate, more certain, and more deserving that I could ever be.

And this can be paralyzing. It prevents me from asking questions (then they will know I'm not as smart as they think I am); prevents me from seeking feedback (because I'm certain none of it will be accurate); and prevents me from setting reasonable standards and expectations for myself (because that filter skews what is reasonable).

Recognizing the problem and remembering that impostor syndrome is a Real Thing is the first and often hardest step.

It's incredibly difficult to draw the line between feeling inadequate and recognizing areas for improvement, especially while I'm wearing impostor-syndrome-tinted-glasses. It takes time, a lot of self reflection, and a good bullshit meter. Steve is usually amazing for being my bullshit meter because I respect and value his opinion so much that it's not as easy to dismiss.

I've started teaching myself to automatically respond to a compliment with a "Thank you" even if I feel it is excessive: no qualifying it, no backpedelling, no explaining why the compliment is undeserved. Just a "Thank you." And I think this is helping lighten the impostor filter.

Baby steps, yea?


Congrats on understanding that you're a human being and that your brain is broken. Honestly, if you've not yet done so, I can't recommend "You Are Not So Smart" by David McRaney strongly enough. It talks about this and other things that we've evolved to have, and now wonder what the hell is wrong with us.

You are not broken. You're competent and rather talented in certain aspects of your life. Yes, you also aren't as talented in others, but most folks haven't noticed or really care. Even better, you've proven yourself to be awesome by understanding why a simple "Thank you" is just fine.

You're doing great, and you're welcome.

Additional Content

Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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