Yesterday, news outlets up and down the country reported on Michelle Obama. It’s all in effort to promote her new autobiography, Becoming. In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her-from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. It all sounds pretty good, Michelle certainly has placed herself as one very inspiring lady.
But that’s not what got me hooked. One article that appeared in the Metro, Independent and BBC revealed that the former first lady still struggles with imposter syndrome. That’s right… lawyer, administrator and wife to the former president, Barack Obama, still finds herself asking, “What do I know?”. (Read the full article here)
“I still have a little imposter syndrome, it never goes away… that feeling that you shouldn’t take me seriously..” Michelle told pupils at a London School on Monday.
I have to admit, it’s very refreshing to hear. I often wonder myself if that feeling will ever subside, that nagging that your luck will run out soon and the worry that your naivety has pushed you into somewhere that you don’t belong. Imposter syndrome is often referred to in Entrepreneurship, it’s something I am very familiar with. However, it important to understand how this actually bleeds into the everyday, slowly exposing self-doubt and ultimately having a large effect on our mental health.
First thing is first, if you have ever experienced imposter syndrome then here is one reason why you should count yourself lucky.
You are not a dick.
I can say this without knowing you at all because it takes a certain amount of humility and self-awareness to experience this. You have to be aware of our weakness and vulnerability and that makes you not only human but also allows for you to have a sense of empathy. Having empathy usually means you are not a total dick. See? I told you you’re lucky!
I saw a cartoon in a publication once, a little picture of a man riding a lion. Everyone around him is thinking, “oh, he is so brave riding a lion like that!” And in a little thought bubble next to him he’s thinking, “How on earth did I get on this lion? And how the hell do I keep from getting eaten?”. I love this because it so clearly illustrates how we see others, always with an assumption that the grass is greener, the weather warmer and the sunsets more spectacular.
The problem with impostor syndrome is that the experience of doing well at something does nothing to change your beliefs. Even though you managed to tame a freaking lion long enough to get on his back, the thought still nags in your head, “What gives me the right to be here?” The more you accomplish, the more you just feel like a fraud. It’s as though you can’t internalize your experiences of success.
Moving past these kind of feelings takes time and to be honest, it’s probably something that you need to work at regularly. Just as Michelle Obama pointed out, it doesn’t matter how successful you might become. We can be our worst critics.