April 13, 2018

Impostor Syndrome

Have you ever felt like you don’t belong somewhere?

I’ve often felt myself surrounded by people - people who seem like they know what they’re doing. They have it all figured out - they belong.

It happens at work, on committees, in competitions, in college, in social settings. That assumption that everyone around you knows better than you and belongs more than you you.

It first happened me when I joined a college society. I was a lowly second year, enthusiastic but shy. I hesitated to offer my opinion - surely everyone else (some of whom were as many as two years older than me) would know better than me. They would have a better idea formed from their experiences and so I shouldn’t get in the way.

But over the past few years, I’ve slowly come to the realisation that everybody is just making it up as they go along. We’re all figuring it out as we go along and bluffing our way through life (some more than others, perhaps).

This realisation became somewhat of an epiphany - if they’re improvising, what’s stopping me from doing the same? Nothing, it would seem.

I no longer think it’s necessary to be omniscient and make the perfect decisions. A decent judgement call is good enough. What matters is being willing to take the initiative and put yourself out there.

I’ve grown confident in my ability to say I’ll be able to do something and then learn how to do that thing before anybody catches on. It’s a sort of optimism that at times has felt like a piano teacher staying one lesson ahead of a student.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’m flying to Toronto today to compete as the Irish finalist in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards. The level of talent at the competition is awe-inspiring. Last year’s winner Julián Ríos Cantú developed a new non-invasive way of detecting breast cancer. I just make websites.

Since winning the Irish competition last December I’ve felt as though the GSEA would be 53 of the world’s top student entrepreneurs plus me. They have it all figured it out - they belong.

Hopefully they’re all just making it up as they go along like me. 🤞🏻