If I’m honest about it, although I didn’t have a label for it until recently, I’ve experienced #impostersyndrome my whole life. In my childhood, painfully in my adolescence and in all the jobs I’ve done, I’ve always considered myself to be “not good enough” in comparison to my peers.
Perhaps – I hope – some of my readers are thinking “No no, Pete – you’re great at X or Y” – and I happily acknowledge and gratefully accept those thoughts without argument. Now 62, I know a few things that I’m quite good at although I still struggle to really believe in myself whether I’m singing, leading a team or creating family history stories. I think what these activities have in common is that some degree of satisfying other people is involved. I’m a people pleaser by nature which drives even more pain into any moment of feeling like an imposter.
And retirement hasn’t helped. I left full time employment more than 3 years ago and, in my eyes, that robbed me of my purpose and I’m still trying to find a new focus that might give me some genuine satisfaction that – and this is the real point – makes me feel like I’m useful.
I’m delighted to have just bought a copy of a newly published book called “You Are Not A Fraud – A Scientist’s Guide to the Imposter Phenomenon” written by Dr Marc Reid. Marc is a PhD chemist with interests in (to quote his Linked In profile) physical organic chemistry, computer vision, virtual reality, cheminformatics, process safety and the psychology of the imposter phenomenon. For full disclosure, Marc is also one of my genealogy customers and I’m excited to have contributed just enough to one of his chapters to have earned an acknowledgement in his book!
This is a substantial and well-researched book, an in-depth study which I can’t really do justice to in this short review. Marc pulls together threads from sources as diverse as Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Tom Hanks, Watership Down, the Michelin guides and Gary Vaynerchuk among many others. Endearingly he also writes very honestly from his personal experience – a powerful testimony that adds a great deal of value to the message.
On page 14, he writes that “when I was halfway through my postdoctoral position and well on the way to working in academia … that feeling of not belonging among my peers, not being good enough, took a brain-draining toll on me“. From there, he describes his own journey, how he (in my words) pulled himself up by the bootstraps and so he gradually takes the reader into the topic and onward to approaching suggested solutions.
I find Marc’s writing style really accessible and more than a little “un-putdownable” because he packs valuable soundbites into almost every sentence. I also really like the sections called “Your Chapter Challenges” at the end of each chapter which offer a series of questions and activities for the reader. This converts his book from just(!) an academic exploration of the imposter phenomenon into a powerful and practical workbook. For any reader who genuinely perseveres, this book offers an opportunity to reflect deeply on their own experience and to begin to understand and address their own imposter feelings.