I’m not gifted, the teacher likes me.
I’m not gifted, I’m a good test taker.
I’m not gifted, I barely passed calculus.
I’m not gifted, this is easy.
I’m not gifted, I haven’t done anything remarkable.
But what if you are g-g-gifted. Why do you feel like you aren’t? Why do you feel like a fake? An impostor? Why do you feel like you’re just sneaking by and one day it will all come crashing down?
As usual, with you, there are no simple answers. But take a look at the following list and identify which of these situations are true:
• You were praised a lot by your parents for your early achievements so you now feel enormous pressure to perform perfectly because your worth depends on it.
• You were told that you were so smart, over and over. You came to believe that learning anything should always be easy.
• School work was not challenging. You could procrastinate until the very last minute and still get an “A.” So the grade didn’t mean much because you didn’t put in any effort.
• You were praised by your parents and teachers for things you felt you didn’t deserve. You could see your mistakes and had higher standards for yourself than they did.
• You think you should know how to do many things without working at them or without having to practice.
• You were singled out in school for your good grades and then bullied by your peers. You intentionally started to get lower grades.
• Your sibling was the intelligent one. You were the other one.
• You grew up in a seriously dysfunctional family so your perception about who you really are is quite distorted.
• You were criticized excessively by your parents and, now, even when you succeed, you hear their voices in your head.
(Note to parents: So sorry that this puts lots of responsibility on you but I’m a therapist. What did you expect? Smile. Groan.)
• When you know how much better your work could be, you aren’t content with your achievements.
• You didn’t get good grades in school. You were highly sensitive and creative. Your intelligence wasn’t noticed.
• You dropped out of college.
• You believe strongly in equality so you try not to appear smarter than anyone else.
• Racism and sexism have been internalized so you doubt your abilities.
• You’ve gotten mixed messages about achievement. If you’re a female, you’re not really supposed to excel too much. You’re told it’s unfeminine and unattractive.
• When you don’t work hard or don’t have to struggle to achieve your goal, then you can’t give yourself credit for it.
• If you acknowledge that you’re very smart, then you have a responsibility to contribute to creating a better world. And that responsibility is terrifying.
I know this is a long odd conglomeration of things but do any of them fit for you? Many of them? A combination of these experiences could lead you to conclude that your achievements are not due to your intelligence. And most unequivocally not your g-g-giftedness.
Which you don’t have.
Note to my blogEEs: I’d love to hear your reactions to this post. How does it fit or not fit for you? Women usually relate to impostor-ism the most. If you’re a male, how do you experience this impostor syndrome? Do you? Your thoughts, feelings and comments will help me select what to write in a future post, which will include ideas on what you can do about it. I promise.
Photos from creative commons: