Am I an impostor?

A close-up of a dictionary showing the word impostor.

Like most self-employed people who work alone, I can get a bit down from time to time. It’s so easy to lose self-belief and, as a result, motivation when your entire workforce is just you.

On Monday, I spent an hour or so searching Google for articles and blog posts about the way I was feeling. I found several about impostor syndrome. I’d vaguely heard of it before, but had never read about it.

Finally doing so was quite an eye-opener. It was describing some of the inner thoughts and feelings that I regularly have but daren’t speak about for fear of looking ridiculous or, indeed, pretentious.

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, impostor syndrome is a mind trap in which people convince themselves they’re not worthy of any success they’ve had. To make matters worse, they have an internalised fear of being found out as frauds.

It’s an irrational fear, I know, but it’s very common. In fact, some hugely successful people including Maya Angelou and Albert Einstein have suffered from it.

I know I am where I am on merit. I’ve worked hard to turn my hobby into a job and also to keep it going during difficult times.

I’ve also won awards and am frequently asked to appear on national radio.

But none of this stops me from literally being a doubting Thomas at regular intervals.

It’s prevented me from doing things that I know I can do in theory. My 40 before 40 challenge is a case in point. So far, I’ve completed a solitary item on my list and only have eight months left!

The good news is that there are coping strategies. Externalising is one of them. Calling it what it is, talking about it and even writing about it are said to be good methods.

Another one is to accept that you’ve had a role in your success. I have to admit that this is one I really struggle with. Simply because it feels arrogant. Or maybe I’m just being way too British there.

A third is to accept praise and recognition. There are many more, but I’m taking these three as a starting point.

Speaking of which, on the very same day that I was researching this, I found out that I’ve been shortlisted in the Pitman Training SuperAchievers Awards.

I’m delighted to be among the finalists and, whether or not I win, simply being shortlisted is the morale boost I needed there and then.

Of course, it isn’t going to solve everything but it has served as a timely reminder to put these coping strategies into practice.

I should – and do – accept that I’ve earned a place in the final as well as the fact that others believe I deserve to be up there. Plus, of course, I have now written about it.

So am I an impostor? No.

And I’m not going to let this infuriating mind trap get the better of me.


  1. John Adams

    Oh Tom, I think we can all feel like this from time to time. These days it has a name, Impostor Syndrome, but could it not be called a lack of confidence? I don’t mean in a huge and debilitating way, but to question yourself in this way (as I do of myself….) suggests lacking in confidence. it is also no bad thing. Surely it’s a chack and balance to ensure you don’t, as Stormzy might say, get too big for ya boots?

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