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I'm not a fraud

Many, many years ago when I was lecturing in Nursing I read a paper, the concepts of which have stuck with me. The author wrote about her feelings of fraud or impostorship, she described standing in the wings listening to someone else introduce her and as her long list of accolades were read out thought “oh, that’s not me, they’ll see through me”. (I may be paraphrasing, the article was read about 25 years ago!). If anyone is interested in the original nursing article you can find it here.

Imposter syndrome is an affliction that affects women more than men. It is where we don’t believe we are good enough, even though we have the qualifications. I have a PhD in Public Health and, by my own admission and with the glory of hindsight, didn’t find it that difficult to achieve (the hardest part was getting to be accepted into a Medical School when my background was Nursing but that is a whole different story that involves a heap of prejudice and a good dose of mysogyny). At times the syndrome can be your friend. I know it is why a number of women artists and photographers work harder and are less forgiving of mediocrity; it also is constantly reinforced by the lack of female photographers and artists in competitions and awards - we are subconsciously having our misled belief about ‘not being good enough’ reinforced.

So, the question arises. When do you know you are good enough? Do you need some sort of external validation (and, even if you got it would you ‘listen’ to it)? For those who do not depend on selling their work then it is well and good to dismiss the conversation with “it only matters to me” but the reality for most is that it needs to matter for other people too.

This has turned into a bit of philosophical piece, however, the opposite to imposter syndrome is also evident in the arts - this is where people believe in their ability and their confidence, in turn, makes other people believe in their ability. If you want a few examples then you need look no further than Elon Musk, or Steve Jobs.

One author provides a really simple, daily formula for increasing self-belief. There are only two things you need to do: count your wins and talk to yourself like a champion and this is consistent with one of the best pieces of advise I have ever been given. When writing your CV or a bio do so with an American accent (in your head, as you write) - this works well for us self-effacing Kiwi’s (and perhaps it is a particular problem in smaller nations where we do love to indulge in a bit of tall-poppy syndrome).

Where does this leave an outsider like myself? Well, it depends upon the context. And, if I am honest it depends on the feedback. I have learnt that my thinking is not easily understood by others (damn abnormal brain) so I do change my response according to where I am and what I want to achieve. The bottom line is that integrity prevails so be true to yourself, always.


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