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Imposter Syndrome

I lean once again on the washbasin taps, staring at my reflection in the mirror whilst trying to calm my breathing. I splash my face with cold water and stare again.

My breathing is shallow, my thoughts chaotic.

The face staring back at me, reflects the darkest corner of my mind.

The imposter inside me. Clouds appear in my eyes as the mean girl in my head tells me of my failures, big and small, real, and imagined.

Voices in my head pull me in different directions, towards the light and back into the shadows…

“I am good enough; I can do this.”

“You’re such a fraud, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

“What the hell is going on with you? Pull yourself together right now”.

Thoughts and carefully selected memories of mishaps at my hand twist my insides so that fear takes another grip, my stomach tightens, and the tears come again. They pour down my cheeks uncontrollably.

This feeling is becoming all too familiar. More recently I’ve been able to give it a name: Imposter Syndrome. I recall a definition I once read;

“An attack of imposter syndrome is a period of intense self-doubt and insecurity. During this time, an individual may feel like a fraud or believe that their accomplishments are due to luck rather than their own skills and abilities. This can result in feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. Imposter syndrome can be a vicious cycle, with individuals feeling like they need to constantly prove themselves, only to experience more self-sabotage and insecurity.”

I look back at the mirror, and in the reflection on the wall behind me, I see these words inscribed. Like someone before me has been here, feeling my pain, paying it forward to help me through this episode.

“Breathe, by Becky Hemsley.”

I turn around and read the words, they speak into my soul in this darkest of moments –

She sat at the back and they said she was shy, 
She led from the front and they hated her pride,
They asked her advice and then questioned her guidance,
They branded her loud, then were shocked by her silence,
When she shared no ambition they said it was sad,
So she told them her dreams and they said she was mad,
They told her they’d listen, then covered their ears,
And gave her a hug while they laughed at her fears,
And she listened to all of it thinking she should,
Be the girl they told her to be best as she could,
But one day she asked what was best for herself,
Instead of trying to please everyone else,
So she walked to the forest and stood with the trees,
She heard the wind whisper and dance with the leaves,
She spoke to the willow, the elm and the pine,
And she told them what she’d been told time after time,
She told them she felt she was never enough,
She was either too little or far far too much,
Too loud or too quiet, too fierce or too weak,
Too wise or too foolish, too bold or too meek,
Then she found a small clearing surrounded by firs,
And she stopped…and she heard what the trees said to her,
And she sat there for hours not wanting to leave,
For the forest said nothing, it just let her breathe.

I suddenly feel a wave of empathy and compassion wash over me, for myself and my situation. I am not alone.

There is at least one other person in this world who knows exactly how I feel. At least one person who knows what it’s like to never feel good enough, no matter what you do or how much success you have. The loneliness of not being able to discuss it with others for fear of sounding like you are just attention-seeking or in desperate need of praise and reassurance. So much so that you spend your time alone in the forest or regularly sobbing in the office toilets.

My tears of frustration become tears of relief as my breathing slows down and my thoughts become more ordered.

Life will always have its ups and downs, like happiness and sadness, hope and despair, bravery and fear, but we all have choices. We can choose to remain optimistic; we can choose bravery instead of fear.

I remind myself that problems are not permanent. I am imperfect, make mistakes, and have emotions, but I also have choices. I choose not to be defeated by disappointment or fear.

Having conquered one moment of darkness, I look at the face in the mirror once more, the imposter slightly subsiding, and I repeat the now familiar mantra to myself…

“It will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”


Taken from the Introduction of New Manager with Imposter Syndrome?” : 15 Critical Leadership Skills for New Managers to Smash
Self-Doubt, Overcome Anxiety, and Lead with Confidence, Respect, and Authority.

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Imposter Syndrome

I lean once again on the washbasin taps, staring at my reflection in the mirror whilst trying to calm my breathing. I splash my face

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