In my new book, the one by Amy Cuddy, I’ve been reading about imposter syndrome. Here’s a quote from Cuddy that describes the phenomenon perfectly:
“Most of us have experienced it, at least to some degree. It’s not simple stage fright or performance anxiety; rather, it’s the deep and sometimes paralyzing belief that we have been given something we didn’t earn and don’t deserve and that at some point we’ll be exposed. Psychologists refer to it as imposter syndrome, the imposter phenomenon, imposter fears, and imposterism.”
I felt this for the first time when I was in graduate school. I remember walking into the building, looking around at the other students, and thinking, “I must be the least qualified person in this room.” Looking back, I realize there were probably other students feeling the same thing, but at the time, I thought I was the only one.
I also felt this acutely when I started my most recent job. I was young compared to most of my colleagues, and I looked even younger than I was. Most of my colleagues were also male. When I told people my position, they often reacted negatively or with surprise, further reinforcing my sense that I was out of place. On top of this, my boss didn’t want me there. He told me unequivocally that he hadn’t wanted to hire me, that he was forced into it by someone else, and that he didn’t think I fit in with everyone else.
The specifics of my experience at my last job are unique to me, but the phenomenon of feeling like you don’t deserve to be somewhere is almost universal. Lots of people feel it.
I guess you could say that one of my goals for this job search is to find a place where I feel a sense of belonging. And, on that note, today’s application goes to a place that does not appear to be hiring but would be a really great place for me to work. I’ve sent them a letter expressing my interest, and, hopefully, if something opens up, they will be in touch with me.