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The Imposter Within – Do You Have This Syndrome?

July 29, 2020
imposter syndrome

There’s a hidden dead end alley in the Lan Kwai Fong district of Hong Kong.  Towards the back of the alley, there is an excellent Mexican restaurant that is always packed. 

To get there, you have to walk up a steep road and duck under some bamboo scaffolding. Then, hop over a couple of puddles that are continuously filled with water dripping from the air conditioning units dangling from the windows high above.

Loud, sweaty, and strangely satisfying is the best way to describe this place. It’s a bit like a scene out of a movie, with the perfect lighting and authentic rawness that only Hong Kong can pull off. 

This place is one of the few locations in Asia where you can find legit spicy food accompanied by real Mexican beer, which is a flavor combination I have not been able to find a replacement for. Although, spicy Thai food with a cold Singha is a worthy contender. (As a side note, I’ve stopped drinking all together because of this.)

Memories of this restaurant have nothing to do with the food or ambiance. In fact, the reason I remember the details of the location so well is because the last time I was there someone called me out. 

He calmly asked me, “Do you suffer from imposter syndrome?” 

Without even thinking, I quipped back, “No. I would tell you if I did, but I definitely do not have imposter syndrome.”

Truth be told, I didn’t really know what imposter syndrome was when he asked me. But, just from the sound of it, that was definitely a syndrome I didn’t want anything to do with!

Later that night, in the comfort of my hotel room, I frantically began to research what the heck imposter syndrome is all about. As I read through the countless articles and research papers, I started to realize that the guy who asked me that question was right in his assumption.

When I returned home, back in the States, I did even more research. The more I read, the more I realized that this is a real thing and that far more people are affected by this syndrome than I would have ever imagined. 

Regardless of gender, over 70% of the population encounters a period in their life when they feel like an imposter. Furthermore, as our world becomes more connected via digital channels, we are all forced to compare our lives to others that we don’t even know. This practice can further perpetuate that imposter syndrome. 

So what is imposter syndrome anyway?

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which one doubts one’s accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. – PRC

Historically, this is a syndrome that was thought to mostly exist with women… but we’re finding out that it’s much more likely that men are just too afraid to admit the feeling of self doubt. So, that last asshole guy you met was probably just putting on a front to cover up his imposter syndrome. 

imposter syndrome

Do you suffer from imposter syndrome?

I have no idea. But, the fact that you are even reading this article, or that you read the Explorer Report, tells me that you likely have, or will suffer from imposter syndrome sometime in your life. 

Why? Well, based on the five subgroups of people that are mostly likely to fall victim, I’m guessing you may fit into one of them, which are:

  • The perfectionist
  • The superwoman/man
  • The natural genius
  • The soloist
  • The expert 

Personally, I believe I fall mostly into the ‘perfectionist’ and ‘soloist’ subgroups. I like to do things on my own, and I am always concerned about the tiny details. However, agonizing over details often results in my over-preparing for something or procrastinating (usually it’s the latter, which is one of the reasons why I write far less frequently than I used to). 

What imposter syndrome subgroups do you fall into? 

One of the examples that is often given for imposters syndrome is when someone climbs a large mountain and then downplays the achievement. Ironically, I have done just that in the literal sense (Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mt. Whitney, etc.) and in the figurative sense (multiple launched businesses and successful creative ventures). 

Yes, I see the other irony here… That I am specifically mentioning my achievements here while at the same time complaining that I have a tough time internalizing those accomplishments. I’m working on it!

So how do we conquer this syndrome?

Well, considering that I’m not qualified to answer this question ( <- There’s my disclaimer.), I will still attempt to provide a solution. But it’s not as complicated as it may seem. 

Think about lifting weights. Is it hard? Of course. That’s why you don’t see a bunch of ripped bodybuilders walking around. It takes a certain kind of person who can withstand physical pain, stick to a consistent lifting schedule, and enjoy the results of building muscle. 

The same exact concept applies to being a successful, driven person. The only difference is that instead of feeling physical pain in your muscles, we feel mental discomfort in the validity of our accomplishments. 

So what’s the best way to overcome that discomfort? Just like lifting weights, it takes consistent work, camaraderie from people who will keep you accountable, and the ability to work through pain. 

Most importantly, I’ve found that what and who you surround yourself with also dictates how you feel. So, you know that negative friend that sucks energy out of you and is always finding reasons why the world is a horrible place? Cut them our of your life. Right now. 

Life is way too short to allow the feelings and influences of others bring you down. 

imposter syndrome

BTW, I have several billionaire friends. Actually, I don’t know their real wealth, but it’s in the high hundreds of millions. You know what quality they all share in common? They all have sociopath tendencies and one of them has Asperger’s (I’ve secretly diagnosed him). They are so self-absorbed and focused on their tasks at hand that they literally do not understand, or even observe, what other people think about them. Their selfishness is at such a level that it’s hard to explain. And, when it comes to their financial success, it’s their greatest gift.