Why being good at your job can leave you feeling like a fraud, and how to overcome it.
What do Maya Angelou, Neil Gai-man and Zadie Smith have in common? Aside from being three of the greatest writers of our time, they have all struggled with imposter phenomenon—the feeling that one is out of place, underqualified, not intelligent or creative enough or just generally lacking. It’s the sinking sense that one’s successes are merely a matter of timing, luck, the kindness of others—never one’s own talent or skill.
Even 11 books in, Angelou worried she would be found out—resonating with the words of philosopher Bertrand Russell: “The stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Ironically, the specter of impostor phenomenon often looms the largest at precisely the time we are doing our best work. But this self-doubt can also silence us at moments when we might otherwise move forward.
Words:Ellie Violet Bramley
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