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I Am (Not) an Imposter

unhappy face in red plaid bruyere

By saying “I Am an Imposter” I think of Big Eyes and picture Adam secretly sewing all my clothes while I get the credit, and that’s a pretty good laugh. Speaking of funny, it’s a funny thing, the tricks that our mind plays on us. Some days I can be proud of my accomplishments – “I’m off to a good start with my business – I was on TV, I had another magazine article published, I’ve gotten great feedback on my most recent pattern!”. And then on other days – “I don’t know what I’m doing and as soon as others figure that out everything will crash around me.”

Imposter syndrome is particularly prevalent in women and I’ve had many discussions with close female friends who have felt the same. (Sidenote, we went to graduate school together and imposter syndrome is also particularly prevalent in graduate students and was certainly also a problem for me when I was in graduate school). But imposter syndrome certainly isn’t just a “woman’s thing” as I was talking about it last week with a close male friend who is faculty at Harvard (and his Harvard post-doc wife). And it’s not just a “scientist or grad student thing” as my husband also struggles with it and he’s a successful businessman who didn’t go through higher education.

It’s been interesting watching how imposter syndrome has shifted into my SeamstressErin space. On my blog now, like when I was in graduate school, I’m perfectly happy to show off things that I have sewn (aside from occasionally feeling awkward in photoshoots) and flaunt them in all their glory. But as soon as I’m talking about a business accomplishment, imposter thoughts creep in. Sometimes I brush the thoughts aside, sometimes I really struggle with them.

So I guess this is a call to myself to recognize imposter thoughts when they arise and set them aside. I am confident in myself. I am confident in my abilities. I have worked very hard to get where I am. I am NOT an imposter.

Have you struggled with imposter thoughts? Do they ever affect your sewing or blogging?

#IAmAWIP

Each week this year I’m going to reflect on an aspect of myself and how it affects me as a sewist, crafter, or blogger. It may get deep, it may get emotional, it may get totally silly. It may be something I’m proud of, it may be something I cringe at, it may be something I aspire to. I may say a lot, I may say a little, I may ask questions, I may not answer them. I don’t quite know where the project will take me, but I’m excited about the journey. I’d be honored to have you join me on this journey. Chime in any time this year in my blog comments, on TwitterInstagram, or your own blog. Join me in my theme for the week or make up your own.

Comments 15

  1. Thank you for posting about this!! Imposter syndrome has been SUCH an issue for me throughout my music career, to the point that it has almost stopped me from pursuing my dreams because I felt like I couldn’t possibly be good enough. I’ve gotten hired by some fairly well-respected musical institutions in the past, and I really struggled with feeling like I didn’t belong there, that the folks who hired me had made a mistake, and that I would never be good enough. Sewing has actually helped me work through some of those anxieties, and has really become an important part of my emotional health. Thank you for bringing awareness to this difficult topic!

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      Author

      I’m so glad to hear that sewing has helped you work through some of your anxieties – that’s great to hear. I’m very sorry that imposter syndrome hurt you in your career – all I can offer is that you are not alone. Sometimes identifying an anxiety and its source is the first step in working through it, so I wish for you that calling out imposter syndrome for what it is helps you get through it.

  2. I was just having this same conversation with some colleagues earlier in the week. It seems that almost everyone experiences this, regardless of your occupation or field. And yes, I can speak from experience that imposter syndrome is alive and well at Harvard. I just keep telling myself that if I survived for 5 years, I must not be an imposter. Maybe when I graduate I will finally believe myself. :)

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      If you’re continuing in science, it seems like you finally believe you’re not an imposter when you graduate, and then you start a post-doc and the feelings start all over again!

  3. I’ve been feeling this acutely for the last two weeks, so it’s nice to have a name for it. I was approached about a better job opportunity in the field I’m currently working in, and throughout two interviews I felt like a fraud. I work with someone who is equally—if not more—qualified for the job, so it was hard to imagine why the company would be interested in me instead. When I expressed these concerns to friends and trusted coworkers, they kept telling me that I work so hard, which only made me feel worse, because I’m acutely aware of all the times that I don’t work very hard! (Impostor syndrome with a side of confirmation bias?) Luckily, none of this has seeped into my sewing/knitting. Maybe it’s because the results of crafting are tangible, in a way that “capable business owner” or “dedicated department leader” are not? Or perhaps because when a DIY project doesn’t turn out well, the negative consequences seem much smaller (lost time/money vs. public embarrassment or a sense of failing at one’s life goals)?

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      Author

      I’m so sorry that you’re acutely struggling with some of the same feelings. You have an interesting point about tangible versus intangible metrics and about negative consequences – those make a lot of sense. Best of luck on the job interviews – I’m sure you do truly deserve the opportunity whether your brain lets you recognize it at the moment or not!

  4. Hi
    Touched a nerve there apparently. :-)

    Simply being competent doesn’t feel like it is enough. It is nice to not only understand that something (or a concept) works, but also know why it works. Somehow success feels less like a fluke when you understand the logic behind what happened.
    You can also lessen the feelings of being an imposter by dropping the (unfortunately called tact) habit of ‘politely’ lying. Interesting experiment for you to try. Try asking people this
    What is baking soda?
    Most people will immediately tell you what it does…. BUT that wasn’t the question. People are so determined to be helpful, they’ll lie.
    Proverbs 17:28 is great advice here.

    There is a lot of great advice in the Bible. Also a lot of behavior that is recorded, but not recommended…haha
    I hope you find what you are looking for in your searching series of writings.

  5. i love this post! I would say this applies to “being an adult” as well, because I still refer to “when I’m a grown up…” Even though I’m a homeowner, married, worked for the same company for 9 years… Okay now that sounds kind of adult to me. I guess I’m not an imposter either. Also, college kids are sooooo young!!

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      Author

      I totally feel ya’ on “being an adult” as well. While my husband and I were house shopping, we said no to a couple of different houses because they felt too “grown up”! I think it’s valid to say “when I’m a grown up” indefinitely :)

  6. I remember having the “imposter” conversation with my supervisor when I was struggling with my thesis… I think it’s pretty common. Which isn’t terribly helpful, I know. Actually, it occurs to me one of the things I really LIKE about my (very boring) day job is that I don’t feel like an imposter—I feel like I’m confident, good at what I do, and able to deliver the service we provide well and (often) quickly. It’s a nice feeling.

    I definitely still feel like an imposter at playing grown-up, though… a bit of a terrifying thought now that my children are edging pretty darn close to “grown up” themselves…

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      So glad that you’re no longer in a situation where you feel like an “imposter” – you deserve to be in a situation where you feel confident and know that you’re good at what you do!

      I’m not sure when I’ll ever start feeling like a “grown-up”, but I certainly haven’t hit it yet!

  7. I think imposter syndrome is part of the human condition. And like most feelings, it ebbs and flows. Sometimes in the forefront, sometimes receding. You are NOT an imposter, and should be proud of all your accomplishments. Go girl!!

  8. I think these feelings are pretty universal. I’ve retired now, from a fairly successful career, and most would say I was pretty good at it, but had these thoughts all the way through (and still have them TBH). I’m still a WIP! Good luck with your journey.

  9. After realising that everyone in science feels like an imposter sometimes (except people with narcistic disorder maybe), I feel even more like a scientist because of my imposter syndrome! I now just fake it till I make it… ;)

  10. Yep… And as I get closer to the end of my PhD and going back to med school it gets harder.

    Some days all I see is the crooked seams… I want to share reality as is but I’m also afraid to be a party pooper on the blog. Finding a balance is difficult

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