Updated: Mar 16
Many people will have experienced imposter syndrome in their life in one form of another. Imposter syndrome is an individual's doubt of their talents, skills and accomplishments. It is that constant niggling feeling that you will be found out and labeled as a fraud, that you shouldn't be where you are. It's something which can be experienced in any profession but also in many other aspects of life and I believe it comes from a deep seeded lack of confidence in ones self.
The first time I experienced it was when I was working as a scientist. I started as a technician but I kept pushing myself, having new ideas for experiments and doing more work until suddenly I was offered a promotion to scientist. It involved slightly more responsibility, as they believed I was already working at the higher level, and a large pay rise. I remember feeling shocked at the time, I had no faith in my abilities and felt as though I'd completely bluffed my way there. I never felt I deserved it, but every time my boss threw me in the deep end, somehow, I swam. I managed to shock myself every time with what I could do, but that niggling feeling of fear that one day everyone would find out the truth and send me away, was always sitting in the back of my mind. Right up until my last day.
I never felt like I deserved to be trusted with everything I was. I always gave everything 100% and knew I was doing my absolute best but I never believed my best would be good enough. The pats on the back I received when I did something good helped in the short term, but it was like a short rush of confidence that quickly dissipated and the self doubt returned.
In my latest life role as mother the imposter syndrome is still very much present. I feel like it’s almost a given for a lot of parents to feel horribly inadequate and ill prepared for their role as parent. Every site on the internet tells you to do something different, the nurses say one thing and the doctors say another and no matter what you do or say, you’ll get funny looks from at least one person in the mothers groups. All of this combined makes it impossible to even work out if you're being a half decent parent. These days I’m pretty chuffed if everyone finishes the day alive and in one piece. I don’t necessarily feel like a good mum but I feel like it’s an achievement.
There are days where I know I’m a good mum. Days I know I’m doing the absolute best I can for our son and I’m pretty sure I’ve done a good job, and then there are the days I feel like I’ve achieved nothing at all. The days when you're not even sure if you showered. The days the pile of clean washing to put away is as big as the pile of dirty washing to be done and you're not sure you'll ever get on top of it. You ordered take away for dinner because you had no time to make dinner and you're not even sure why you had no time because you can't list off one thing you've achieved. Those are the days I feel like a shit mum but there are still people in my life telling me I did a good job, but I just don't see it or feel it.
Everyday I try to be the best mum I can and some days that means I spend more time crawling around on the floor rather than doing house work, but I think that's ok. I think I'm still achieving being the mum I want to be, but so many things make us feel inadequate if we don't do everything and do it perfectly. This means, no matter how many people tell you, you're a good mum, you will continue to feel inadequate because of the million things you feel you could have done or could have done better.
The imposter syndrome I experience here is when I question my ability as a parent. Where I put on a front like I know what I'm doing while inside I feel like I have no clue. The more my little man grows and changes, the less I feel like I know what I'm doing. When I start feeling like this I try to refocus and look at the more basic facts, he goes to bed every night fed, clean and (generally) happy. Whether I have achieved anything else, I always manage those things and most days I can accept that and push the self doubt aside, but there is always that niggling voice saying I should be doing better, that I'm a fraud parading as a good mum and one day people will find out. Fingers crossed they don't and I can keep up the facade.
This is a snapshot of some of my experiences with imposter syndrome but it is a common phenomenon I'm sure most people reading this have experienced. I hope my writing can help people feel less alone with some of their insecurities and start to push aside some of the self doubt.
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