Impostor Syndrome, my therapist tells me, makes us doubt our accomplishments and causes a fear of being discovered as a “fraud.” This sneaky condition can strike even the most successful and intelligent among us. I’m glad to have language to describe this now because lately, even I have had some creeping Impostor Syndrome thoughts. These thoughts are maddening and surprisingly hard to shake.
My therapist seems to think that my Impostor Syndrome started right around the time I faked my own death, had a man killed, and stole his identity. I don’t know if they’re right, but I am here to tell you that I will not let Impostor Syndrome get me down just because I’m an actual impostor.
It has taken hard work to get to where I am. I am a self-made, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps, set-a-guy-up-to-be-murdered-and-steal-his-identity kind of person. I suppose my humble beginnings contribute to my sense of not belonging in the high-powered world of wealth and finance I currently find myself in. But I am learning to honor and respect my own accomplishments, like my stellar resume, which I stole from a successful businessman and Yale graduate named Tom Bartleby (name changed out of respect for the dead, and also nice try feds!), and the fact that I’ve avoided the feds.
Why can’t we just celebrate our successes without being so hard on ourselves? Look at me! I live in a mansion now! I am living the best outcome of the game MASH! No more shacks for me. I wear silk pajamas and almost always have a bottle of Dom Perignon in each hand. Do you think I just ended up here by accident? No. Yet those voices still nag me. You don’t belong here. No, you seriously don’t belong here. You stole someone else’s past and literally murdered someone to avoid your own responsibilities. Like, dude.
But I say NOT TODAY, voices! Have you seen those shirts that say “Not today Satan”? I like to think of Impostor Syndrome as Satan. That might sound blasphemous to some of you, but who else possesses the power and the evil to make us question our own successes? I am not a man of faith, but I do know that only the devil would try to take my accomplishment of taking someone else’s accomplishments away from me.
Not today, Impostor Syndrome. Today I will join my fellow finance executives in the board room for an important meeting that I will not understand, and I will attempt to play golf at lunchtime, which my colleagues will find a real “laugh riot.” (“You sure you went to Yale?” they’ll ask.)
My therapist says to talk back to my negative thoughts and create a new narrative in my mind. So now every morning, I repeat to myself: I will never give up. Just like I didn’t give up when the mob was after me for the money I owed them. I didn’t cower or fall on my knees (except when they hit me in the back of the legs with a bat). Instead I used my intellect and work ethic to find a guy whose body was similar to mine and who had a shit ton of money to take the hit for me, then I skipped town and created a whole new me (or whole new Tom? I’m not sure what the right verbiage is there). I never give up. And still, Impostor Syndrome tries to sneak in and rob me of my rightful sense of who I am pretending to be.
I’m a hedge-fund manager now, and I have a diploma from Yale University (let’s be honest, this guy was probably an asshole!). Do I sound like some kind of loser to you? I will say that being a hedge-fund manager has been challenging because I don’t know what a hedge-fund is.
Will the law catch up with me eventually? Definitely. Now that I think about it, there were some pretty big holes in my plan and I left all kinds of evidence and–did you hear me say that I don’t know what a hedge-fund is? Or that whole murder part? Oh god. Oh no. What am I doing? Who am I?
You see? Imposter Syndrome can happen to the best of us. But I will never give in to those cruel, thoughts, however accurate, because I am Tom Bartleby sort of goddamn it, and this Tom Bartleby never lets Impostor Syndrome take him down.