Who amongst us doesn’t know this question? You, that girl in college who tops every exam, that friend on Instagram whose life is #goals…and Michelle Obama? That’s right. In her memoir “Becoming,” Michelle Obama writes how she too was troubled by this question of being good enough.
Now, take a second to think about that. Michelle Obama. Former first lady. Princeton and Harvard law grad. An inspiration for women worldwide. She has had moments where she doubts herself. Imagine! Clearly, if Michelle Obama can feel that she’s not good enough – which is what is now known as a symptom of “imposter syndrome” – then, what hope there is for the rest of us? Yeh chal kya raha hai?
First, let’s clear some basics. What is imposter syndrome? A study by accounting organisation KPMG defines imposter syndrome as “the inability to believe your success is deserved as a result of your hard work and the fact you possess distinct skills, capabilities and experiences.” Basically, the cooler your CV, the louder the volume of the voice in your head saying “But, I am a fraud!”
Even though it was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, it’s not a psychological condition specifically. And yes, it does affect many famous names we know and love. Cue Tina Fey, who said in 2010, “The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of ‘I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re onto me! I’m a fraud!’ Even self-love queen Lizzo has confessed that her self-worth sometimes takes a hit.
But does imposter syndrome only affect women?
Opinion is divided on that. When the term first became popular in the 1970s, it was considered to be gender-agnostic. But subsequent studies show that maaaybe women are affected by it a bit more, like a study where women reported feeling like an imposter at a higher rate than men.
At any rate, the ghost of imposter syndrome seems to haunt women more. Especially in the workplace. An HR-saying explains it best, “men apply for jobs even if they meet just 60 per cent of the job requirements, while women apply only when they think they meet 100 per cent of the requirements.” Feeling like a fraud means women either choose to not study subjects that are perceived to be hard or hold back from not applying for positions they may be qualified for!
Like if you’ve ever loved Physics, but thought, “I can’t do this, it’s too tough.” Or not applied for that dream job. Congratulations, aapko imposter syndrome hua hai.
But then, how to tackle this? Let’s go back to Michelle Obama. In her memoir, she writes that whenever she was faced with the feeling that she's actually a fraud, that she doesn't deserve her success, she answered the question of “Am I good enough?” repeatedly with just two words.
And, you are.