In the 1970s, clinical psychologists Drs. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes coined the term “impostor syndrome” to describe high-achieving individuals (mainly women) who don’t internalize their accomplishments and thus fear being exposed as a “fraud.”
In the library Twitterverse, I saw plenty of unbelievably accomplished librarians complain of impostor syndrome. While I don’t doubt their statements – I fully believe these colleagues when they speak of their emotions – I couldn’t relate. For the most part, I have been comfortable in my positions; nothing ever seemed out of scope.
Then, I landed my first professional gig.
While I don’t match impostor syndrome perfectly, I can now fully relate to my peer’s uncertainties. My new gig is not entry level and it carries with it a lot of responsibility – to the library, to the university, to the profession, to academia. (Thank you, tenure-track job.) If I think too long on it, I get dry-mouthed and somewhat breathless. Yes, I can do all of that stuff; I’m fully capable. But it’s so much responsibility. And it’s amazing to me that my new employer has that much confidence in me – and that I had the amount of confidence that it took to apply, interview, and accept that position.
So, to my peers facing impostor syndrome: I can now relate. But let’s agree to be amazed at what we can accomplish and have accomplished. That feels a bit better than thinking we’re frauds (which we are very much not).