Imposter Syndrome

A throw away comment on a Facebook feed got me thinking about this. So I went online and found the following definition:

“Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.”


The article went on to define the following criteria:

1.  Feeling like a fake: the belief that one does not deserve his or her success or professional position and that somehow other have been deceived into thinking otherwise. This goes together with a fear of being, “found out”, discovered or “unmasked”. People who feel this way would identify with statements such as: “I can give the impression that I am more competent than I really am.”  “I am often afraid that others will discover how much knowledge I really lack”.

2.  Attributing success to luck: Another aspect of the impostor syndrome is the tendency to attribute success to luck or to other external reasons and not to your own internal abilities. Someone with such feeling would refer to an achievement by saying, “I just got lucky this time” “it was a fluke” and with fear that they will not be able to succeed the next time.

3.  Discounting Success: The third aspect is a tendency to downplay success and discount it. One with such feelings would discount an achievement by saying, “it is not a big deal,” “it was not important.” One example of this is discounting the fact that they made it here, which is really a big success.  Or saying, “I did well because it is an easy class, etc.”  Or, you might have a hard time accepting compliments.

Do you have it? I think I do… Let’s recap:

1. I’m a vet,with a full time job which entails some high level policy decision making. But I constantly (after 20 YEARS in this career) feel like someone is going to notice that I’m actually not that good. I also regularly have dreams in which I am going into my final exams and I KNOW I am going to fail (to reiterate – I sat my finals 20 YEARS ago!).

So that would be a big tick for characteristic 1.

2.  I have horses, one of which has qualified for the premier endurance event in Australia. I CONSTANTLY put this down to Joe’s “natural talent” and to the fact that he is “all heart”. And sure, that has a lot to do with it, but on the other hand spotted that talent in the funny rising 2 year old youngster who couldn’t be caught and who wouldn’t let you touch his ears. I handled him, found a wonderful trainer to start him for me, and I have ridden him ever since. ALL of the hundreds of kms he has done, bar one 40km training ride, have been done with me in the saddle. He now has almost 1,000 endurance kilometres under his belt without a single vet out. I did that.

Joe the day he came home

Joe the day he came home: from this..

Joe first ride 2

To this: first ride at the trainers

WAERA State Champs 2013_2

To this: First Heavyweight and BC at State titles last year.

Big tick for characteristic 2…

3. I’m off (hopefully) to the Quilty. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve heard myself say: “Oh, well, it’s not like we will be running with the leaders” or “We “just” want to finish”. Finishing a 160km is a BIG DEAL, whatever your finishing position. Just qualifying for the Quilty is a BIG DEAL.

So: own it, sister. (As a very good friend said to me last week).

My name is Anna and I have imposter syndrome…

Who else wants to fess up?


2 thoughts on “Imposter Syndrome

  1. Almost everybody feels like an impostor! Just recognizing it goes a long way toward fixing it though. I think it’s especially hard in endurance riding, because our horses *are* such rockstars – just admitting something like “I found him and I trained him” feels like you’re taking something away from the horse. But there wouldn’t be a partnership if you weren’t doing your share. Your team rocks and you deserve the credit!

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