Impostor Syndrome


Have you ever received a compliment and laughed it off? I do this all the time. I have learned how to accept compliments with genuine enthusiasm, but I am instantly dubious of the other person’s intent. I can’t possibly be worthy of a compliment, so what’s your angle? What are you trying to do to me by telling me this false nice thing? I’m a fraud, an imposter. I’m not good at anything. I’m not even good at being alive. I feel very ambivalent about it. Today, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I spent hours trying to tell myself that my small goals were good enough, that I showered, went to my therapist, went to my psychiatrist, practiced my Ukulele, etc., which is more than I’ve done in weeks. I try to say well I’m back in school so I’m working on that goal. But it feels too slow and I still feel like I don’t know anything. I feel like I won’t be able to do the work in the fall and I’m just faking my way through these courses. Nevermind my actual grades. They don’t mean anything. I still know nothing.

I know this is flawed thinking and I know I am particularly vulnerable to it right now because of this little depression thing. It doesn’t change though and it never has. I’ve never been able to take a compliment, not really. I will thank you and internally dismiss you or question myself to the point of numbness. I get defeated. Praise is confusing.

There is something called Imposter Syndrome, where you feel like a fraud and have difficulty taking compliments. Wikipedia says it’s not a mental disorder per se, but it’s still studied by a lot of psychologists.

Impostor phenomenon (also known as impostor syndrome or fraud syndrome or the imposter experience) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes.[1] Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Some studies suggest that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.”

Truthfully, I’ve always been told I was very smart and this probably had a somewhat negative effect on me because I have very low self-worth so the compliment only served to cause distress and confusion since it clashed with my perception of myself. I really hate compliments. It’s nice to feel appreciated, but there’s a difference between praise and appreciation, and I prefer the latter.

A friend of mine suggested I write this post because I was feeling very low and like a fraud. I was trying to help someone on my Discord server that I moderate, and it’s been basically 24 hours of him on a delusional loop and refusing to actually get help. I finally told him that we needed to stop the loop and he needed to stop repeating himself. I understand how difficult his situation must be. He was shot in the head twice, recovered, then had a panic attack and called off his wedding. Now he’s experiencing derealization and a persistent sense of deja vu. Every once in a while he’d say, “I should just give up. I’m sorry.” Now, I’m not trained to deal with this in any way. I’m just a volunteer person with experience dealing with mental health. I decided for the good of the server, as so many people had been trying to talk to him, to be firm and tell him to refrain. He decided to leave after that. I feel really bad but I was frustrated and tired and worried about the sanity of the rest of our community. We did what we could but it still feels like it wasn’t enough. I didn’t know what else to do. I question my actions. This is why I started to feel like an impostor. Like, who am I to say these things to someone?

On the bright side of today though, I’ve gotten much better at the Ukulele. I’ve only had it a few days so I’m trying to be patient. But it’s hard. I just want to jump forward to when I know what I’m doing. I can play about 6-7 chords from memory and most of 3 songs. My rhythm is improving and my fingers are getting sore. It’s such a great feeling.

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