Feel Like a Fraud? You Are Not Alone.
Do you ever get the feeling that everyone around you gets what is going on and you are the only one confused? When I was studying accounting, I remember being in class and thinking that I was the only one who didn’t understand what was going on. I was too embarrassed to ask the other students or the professor so I plugged along, studied and got mediocre grades. Then when I graduated and went to work at an accounting firm, I felt like an imposter even more. The large firms in Arizona would not even look at me because of my grades, but I got a job at one of the large international firms in Vancouver, BC. I interviewed with six of the Big Eight firms and got job offers from five of them. I was amazed, considering my grades, and my accounting professors at NAU were shocked. I was convinced that they hired me for two reasons, I was a Canadian citizen willing to live in the most expensive city in Canada and their grading system was different, therefore they didn’t know how inept I was.
I did not stay in Vancouver very long, but while I was there I always felt like someone would find out that I was not very good and let me go. When I moved back to Arizona and went to work for a small local firm, I never did felt like I knew what I was doing. After my children were born, I decided to open my own firm and that old imposter feeling came back.
As I was doing research for this article I found quite a bit written about the “Imposter Sysndrome.” I had heard discussions on the subject but did not realize there was so much written. In the book, The Sexual Paradox: Men, Women and the Real Gender Gap, author Susan Pinker writes that many highly accomplished women feel that they have gotten where they are through luck or some other external circumstances rather that due to hard work and their own talent. These women worry that they will be found out and exposed as a fraud. Famous women such as Tina Fey, Michelle Pfeiffer and Kate Winslett as well as many other highly accomplished, talented women feel this way.
Meryl Streep -“You think, ‘Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?’”
Maya Angelou – “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist, in an article in Psychology Today asks why this is a female thing?
“Men are more likely to attribute their success to internal factors (their ability and effort) and their failure to external factors (task difficulty and luck), whereas women are more likely to attribute their success to external factors and their failure to internal factors.
But why? For once, I don’t have an answer. The phenomenon of imposter syndrome suffered by many successful women, but few successful men, truly puzzles me, and I don’t know why there is a sex difference in it. Why do so many highly accomplished women feel they are frauds, imposters, and phonies when their male counterparts don’t?”
I do not know either, but I still get the imposter feeling when people talk to me about my accomplishments as an entrepreneur. I cite all my studio failures, my lack of profit and my lack of skills in marketing, social media, human resources, management, communication, etc., instead of realizing that I have accomplished what most people will never do, start and run, not one, but several businesses and a nonprofit organization. I take chances, often failing, but I keep getting back up and I keep trying.