The Shay Rebellion | Christopher Shay

I’m an impostor.

The other day a friend asked me, “dude, why do you always need to change out of your work clothes the moment you get home?”

“I just don’t feel like me in them. It feels like a costume I put on to play the part of a teacher. I feel like such an—an impostor.”

I often feel like an impostor. No matter what I do, no matter what I accomplish, I often feel like I’ve just been faking it and that I’ve just gotten lucky not to have been outed yet. To a certain extent, I have been incredibly fortunate, but I also realize that whenever I do feel like a phony, I feel the need to work harder.

There’s a new “syndrome” that is being discussed by overachievers across the US—the impostor syndrome. Overachieving academics are packing workshops all across the U.S., trying to overcome this affliction where you’re unable to internalize your accomplishments.

I imagine Dr. Valerie Young, the popularizer of this “syndrome,” driving from the workshop to workshop in a newly bought Porsche SUV, day-dreaming whether her next vacation—paid for sufferers of her syndrome—should be in Pago Pago or Paris. The brilliant part of the character trait that Young chose to pathologize is that this “syndrome” tends to come with a degree of self awareness. I suspect that many sufferers have this nagging belief they have talent, but they are afraid to embrace it. Plus, who doesn’t like to be told they’re talented at a workshop?

I suffer from impostor syndrome, and I hope I’m never cured. Sometimes I try unsuccessfully to have impostor syndrome. Whenever I’m arrogant or pompous, it’s when I have successfully internalized my successes. People are driven by their little neuroses. For many people, I think the impostor syndrome can be that force gnawing at you, telling you that no matter what you do, it’s not enough. It keeps you driven and makes you think out your ideas and your life more thoroughly.

Maybe I can make my first million by writing books and holding workshops on how to be an impostor. I’d create a legion of impostor impostors. They’d keep buying my books too, because they’d never believe they were successful. They’d just keep striving.

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