Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Imposter Syndrome claims another victim

I'm still not entirely convinced I haven't been fooling everyone all along.
Myself included.

All my life, I've been "the smart one." It has become family legend how young I learned to read. My sister and I were unnecessarily dichotimized as "the smart one" and "the pretty one". All pretty nonsensical with a little hindsight- she was on the Honour Roll, and we have been mistaken for twins for close to ten years. However, whether by self-fulfilling prophecy or some sliver of reality, we began enacting these roles. She took up modelling and I started college when I was 17.

Still, every once in a while, I get the impression that I am part of this elaborate charade. I know I'm smart... but I'm not sure I'm as gifted as people's images would have me be. In Grade 12, I pulled off the award for top student, when everyone expected it to go to another fellow better known for his studiousness (see, another made up word!). For the longest time, I felt this weird guilt over it, as though I had cheated somehow or it was a massive mistake-- which made no sense because it was simply based on grades.

However, where Imposter Syndrome runs most rampant is, as you can guess, is in my newfound duties as a psychologist-in-training. While I've been challenging myself like mad over the past few years, sometimes my occasional apathy makes me feel like I don't deserve to be where I am. Other times, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, I wonder if any of this will feel at all natural. Today I went to an informal consultation type thing being led by a very prestigious practitioner and researcher-- and while discussing one of my cases with him, I was somehow led into therapy role playing with him in front of a group of grad students. While most of it seemed to go reasonably well, I kept on worrying that this was going to be the time that they all realized that, while I may write a good paper, I lack all natural talent as a therapist. After all, are there really any safeguards to stop those lacking talent but look good on paper from getting this far?*

*Okay, logically, there are. I do get a lot of supervision and did a full-time practicum. I still think I may have fooled them too with my eagerness and my lovely professional outfits.

**This is not a subtle ruse to obtain reassurance... besides, most of you haven't the slightest clue whether I actually have any therapeutic skills at all!


Ant said...

No we don't - you might be rubbish! :o)

(OK, I jest, I'm sure you're not...)

I found one of the most confidence-sapping activities of my life was getting my first degree - it was in a tough subject and the fact that I got it at all was testament to my abilities. But after five years of barely understanding what was going on I came out of it a) never wanting to do the subject ever again and b) feeling immensely thick.

I've heard people complain about the same thing after finishing up PhD's - could this be the source of your malaise?

LMizzle said...

If all else fails next time something like this happens, I say, take off your top to distract them!

Princess Pointful said...

Ant- It is very possible. Perhaps I've realized that expertise in any field is really hard to come by, and the more I learn, the less I discover I actually know.
What was your first degree in, out of curiosity?

Lmizzle- I told you, that photo is deceptive! I'm not sure my cans have nearly enough distracting power!
And, being the geek I am, I would have to come up with a therapeutic context that would make such an action at least mildly relevant.

Ant said...

Astrophysics - it was bloody hard but very abstract, making me incredibly unemployable at the end (or that may have been my resultant lack of confidence and therefore poor interview technique that conspired against me there...) I then moved into the world of computer security and have never looked back.

PS Looking at a woman's breasts is *always* therapeutic. You don't need a reason.

Princess Pointful said...

Astrophysics??? Jesus!
I don't even have a concept of what that resembles in my mind!
Physics has pretty much been my nemesis for some time, though.

So, women's breasts as therapeutic, you say? Should we be doing some patenting?