The Impostor Syndrome

Wadia PIC

Despite being successful, every now and then, a psychological phenomenon hits many of us. We believe when we are in a competing environment that we are impostors! That we do not deserve any of the accomplishments made. We think that we are not intelligent, we do not deserve to be where we are, and that everyone will discover the impostor game we are playing. Besides, we see ourselves as lucky bastards who got there by fraudulous means even if we didn’t. We tend to not believe in ourselves. We think that somehow it did work this time and that we cannot do the job next time. How many times it happened to you? Once, twice… ten times? It is called the impostor syndrome!

I still remember how scary I was in my first encounter with a Public Figure! As President of the Student Government Association, I was invited to greet President Kufuor of Ghana during his visit to Al Akhawayn University in September 2003. I couldn’t believe why it was me, why I had to be there. Scary feeling mixed of a feeling why me and not the rest of the 1000 Student Community. I was scared that they will discover that I couldn’t greet a President and shake his hand! One of my professors had to convince me that he is Human, and that at the end of the day, he goes to toilet too! Gross, but it did work! He convinced me that all of us are scared to talk to the public.

Everyone that I met had the same feeling about it. Either at work or in international conferences, everyone is saying loud internally: What the hell am I doing here? Why I was chosen? Don’t they know that I can’t do the job? If you are asking yourself one of these questions, know that you are among the high achievers in the world!

In my actual position, I have the chance to meet world leaders from all walks of life, and you can feel that the majority are thorn by this phenomenon. Either in Sanaa, New York, Mogadishu or Dubai, leaders are all feeling as impostors. Rare are the ones who can overcome this feeling. Having said that, the imposture syndrome is not considered by science as a psychological disease. It is a feeling of incapacity to internalize the accomplishments. Even with facts and factors of success, and even with knowing about it, we remain convinced that we are impostors and that we are frauds.

Leadership is a matter of having confidence, a matter of knowing the unknown, a matter of taking responsibility and decision in time of ambiguity, a matter of being a servant leader and a matter of being able to lead and to follow. Taking leadership is taking your life in your hands and being able to overcome challenges such as the impostor syndrome. Modesty and knowing your true value are key to be a true leader!

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