Imposter Syndrome: fighting your gremlins
Earlier this month, I went to the V&A’s Undressed exhibition with a bunch of lovely people who are all fans of the lingerie brand Kiss Me Deadly. Since I was awarded my MA – which involved two years of research and academic writing about underwear, specifically bras – the brand’s head honcho Catherine has rather delightfully referred to me as “Lori, Master of Bras” and I received top billing on the Facebook event page for this trip. This was all very exciting, until a voice in my head said “what if someone asks you a question you can’t answer? Your research was quite narrow in scope… there’s lots in that exhibition that you know absolutely nothing about.”
At first I dismissed this as silly, because it wasn’t actually supposed to be an organised guided tour, but then I remembered all the times I’ve read a lingerie blog or chatted to a designer/maker and thought “these people know so much more than I ever will.” Cora Harrington has been writing about lingerie for eight years, and being an expert in it is her full-time job. Karolina Laskowska has a contour degree, a lingerie brand and is extremely knowledgeable about her sizeable collection of vintage pieces. Compared to people like that, what right do I have to call myself an expert? I started to worry that everyone was going to find out that I really don’t know very much at all.
Then I stopped for a minute, as I realised I recognised this voice in my head. These… gremlins. I remembered a TEDx talk on Imposter Syndrome given by Maryam Pasha, and also the session she ran on the topic at last year’s Irreverent Dance summer school, which I attended. The TEDx talk is online (and embedded below), so I re-watched it and recognised a lot of what Maryam mentions. One of her slides described the defining features of Imposter Syndrome as:
- Feeling that other people have an inflated perception of your abilities
- Fear that your true abilities will be found out
- Persistent tendency to attribute success to external factors, such as luck
Well, I can definitely tick off the first two and am probably extremely guilty of the third on occasions too, but what can I do to fix this? For starters, I’m hoping that writing this blog post will help. Admitting you’ve got a problem is the first step, right? Next I should probably start listing all the things I do know. After all, I may not consider myself to be an underwear expert yet, but I do have a Master’s degree and my dissertation was on the bra so “Master of Bras” is a matter of fact. I think I should accept that there’s plenty that I don’t know, but this is actually quite exciting as it just means there’s more left to discover.
Main image via yevkusa‘s Flickr photostream. Second image of an event poster taken by lipsticklori.