I’m an impostor.


“Am I an expert? I don’t know!”

Lately I’ve thought a great deal about impostor syndrome.

Impostor syndrome essentially means, despite external evidence of competence, one is still convinced she’s a mess fraud.

It means an individual falsely believes she doesn’t deserve success and dismisses it as luck, serendipity etc.

Many who experience this syndrome believe they are deceptive.

They’re convinced any gains are the result of duping others into thinking they are better at something (or everything) than they really are.

Ten years down the road I’ve realized motherhood is the ultimate impostor experience.

Each time someone is kind enough to compliment my parenting I think (and frequently say): Thanks so much. Now, get back to me in a few decades when we see how she *really* turns out!

austin airport

the I’m ROCKING MOTHERHOOD! impostor.

I first learned the phrase impostor syndrome 15 years ago from a life-coach friend.

I had an opportunity (no, I created an opportunity. see what I mean? impostor syndrome. it wasn’t luck.  I made it happen.) to present an idea/concept to Target brand.

As I rehearsed my presentation, I shared with my friend how the husband wanted to fly to Minneapolis with me.

That’s not happening, I told her, I can’t put on my “game face” and play professional-Carla with him around.

She listened to me rant about how awkward I’d feel with him seeing me as my work-self and, when I finished, asked if I knew the name for what I’d described.

Impostor syndrome.

I didn’t bother researching the term as the very words made me knew it fit.

I was flying to a big meeting with a BIG brand.  I wondered why on earth they chose to spend precious time meeting with me when I was kind of a nobody who just had an idea.

I felt like an impostor.

And I didn’t want anyone along to bear witness to it.


Zooma running impostor.

I recently signed up for an online writing course.

It’s independent, but there’s a Facebook group component where you have the option to share your writing.

From the first day most people shared.

And these sharer-people were good.

Really really good writers.

I became so focused on their phenomenal writing abilities I didn’t pause to consider what they excelled at (serious, literary writing) wasn’t what I aspired to do.

I had a moment of thinking: I don’t think I belong in this group.  Who do I think I am calling myself a writer alongside these women?!

And then I remembered another facet of impostor syndrome:

We hesitate to believe what comes naturally or easily for us offers value to the world.


Austin’s fittest mom: impostor?

The very act of being good at something can lead us to discount its value.


That facet of the definition was it for me.

I no longer have fear of being discovered a “fraud” or impostor as I don’t give lip service to not caring what others think–it’s who I am.

For me, however, impostor syndrome still rears its head when it comes to not placing value on that which comes easily to me.

Writing with a light, humorous voice? Easy for me. Must be easy for everyone. Must not be valuable.

Writing with a heavy, thematic, literary voice? Hard for me. Must be worth more. Must be more valuable.


Fila Real Woman impostor model?



I almost became paralyzed and tiptoed metaphorically away from the group.

Thankfully at 46 I practice not just preach.

Instead of retreating I created three ways to overcomes these feelings and *enjoy* the rest of the class.

3 ways to beat back feelings of impostor syndrome.

  • I created a success box. The best predictor of future success is past success. As I worked to remind myself what came easily to me IS valuable it helped to physically see my box fill with missive of success.
  • I stopped comparing. I know someone elses success is not my failure. I did need to remind myself (repeatedly) someone elses writing-light shining brightly (and very very differently from my own!) does not diminish mine in the slightest. Their writing may rock. My writing can *also* rock.
  • I stopped with the onlys. I’ve completely stopped musturbating I still have a raging case of the onlys. I respond to compliments with phrases like: I’m so glad you like my writing voice, but if you didn’t it’s the only one I’ve got. I need t stop qualifying my abilities and successes with words like only or just. No qualifiers required.  My gifts just are.

And that was really it.

A  list of 3 things (printed out and hung on my office wall) and I nipped returning to old impostor syndrome habits pretty much in the bud.

For now anyway.

The writing group is over.  The list reminder remains firmly in place.

And you?

  • Have you ever experienced impostor syndrome? How have you worked to overcome it?

The post I’m an impostor. appeared first on Carla Birnberg.

This entry was published on December 14, 2015 at 1:36 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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