The art of winging it
Dealing with imposter syndrome
Morning. How are you?
Reference: John Gutmann, The Confessional, Mexico, 1960
The French novelist André Malraux asked a priest who had listened to confessions for many decades to sum up what he had learned about human nature, to which he responded
“First of all, people are much more unhappy than one thinks and then the fundamental fact is that there's no such thing as a grown-up person"
I take a few things from this. Firstly, the illusion of social media has led us to believe that everyone else is leading far happier, sexier and more successful lives. However, as existential psychotherapy tells us, nobody escapes life without periods of darkness, loss or isolation. What I forget when scrolling on Instagram, is that each person has their own complex internal world and history. Psychotherapy provides a window into these private inner lives, and shows us that the human experience can be both full of joy and extremely painful. For some, it can be comforting to know that however unique you may feel in your own form of unhappiness, there’s likely to be others who have trodden similar paths.
I often hear people doubt their ability to perform in certain areas of their lives. The anxiety of imposter syndrome can cause feelings of not being good enough in the workplace, in relationships or a general self-consciousness. When we find ourselves in moments of insecurity about the type of person we are or what we’re doing, we can’t help but compare ourselves to others. The priest’s comment reminds me that no matter how mature, intelligent or put together someone may seem; no-one is truly an adult. Everyone has a part of themselves that yearns to be looked after like a child, and most people are making their way through life improvising as they go.
When we measure our competence against others, we are comparing the part of ourselves that’s most self-critical with the outside image that people carefully portray. Despite what Facebook or LinkedIn may have you think, the majority of us are going from situation to situation hoping for the best. When the feeling comes over me that I’m inadequate in whatever capacity, it provides some relief to know that the people I care desperately about impressing are probably preoccupied with their own self-doubt. If the leaders of our country have shown us anything over the past few years, it’s that most people (if not all) are winging it.
You’re probably doing much better than you think you are.