I suffer from the Imposter syndrome
There I said it! Some call it ‘not good enough, unworthy or inadequacy. It is the feeling that you are a fraudster and someone is going to find out, that the life you are living is not yours. I used to believe that if I worked hard enough on myself. If I did enough inner work, I would get to a place where I am fully confident and feel deserving of all of my achievements. I am slowly realizing that, that may never happen.
Every attempt at achieving every level of success requires a higher level of confidence than one needed before . Every next level of accomplishment requires one to dig deeper than they did before. It is never cute, nor easy, many tears are shed. Often one has to push through feeling uncomfortable and unequal to the task.
When I first landed in that Accounting class at university, the imposter syndrome got so bad that I lost all confidence in my abilities as a student and failed for the first time. As an A student all my life, it was both humbling and confusing to have lost the one thing I knew I was good at. I spent the rest of my university days working to rebuild my confidence in my abilities as a student. I struggled through undergrad. Growing up I dreamed of becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA). I did not even know what CA’s did, I just read that they made a lot of money and wanted to become one. However, the impostor syndrome won and I gave up.
I got my drivers license after 6 failed attempts at 31 years old. I wrestled with the imposter syndrome and only won when one of my many driving school instructor called out my imposter syndrome by it’s name. I realized then that I was battling to see myself as someone who could own and drive her own vehicle . No one in my immediate family had, let alone a woman as young as I was at the time. As a result I would sabotage myself and fail so I can have an excuse for delaying getting a car. I will forever be grateful to that guy for the realization.
When I was studying for my Advanced Diploma in Risk Management at UNISA. I passed all my modules except, Market Risk because it was investment finance and I’d always wanted to be an investment banker. Because I believed it was impossible to have the career that I wanted, I I made everything investment banking related, too difficult for me. I only passed it on my second attempt, when the imposter syndrome let off and I was finally calm enough to understand all those weird numbers in my textbook.
Studying for my MBA was one of the most challenging period of my life. The one trait that I’m grateful for having is that I’m not afraid of starting things. I get so excited about starting that I don’t think things through and only realize the enormity of the challenge when I’m in the middle and already committed. I had the same experience with the MBA, I enjoyed it until I got towards the end. When it dawned on me that I could actually posses a Masters Degree, the imposter syndrome reared its ugly head and pinned me down. I remember crying to my fellow classmate Lesego – bless her heart. She listened patiently, and when I was done. She just said to me, unfortunately there is no other alternative but to just do it. I’m so grateful to her.
We are still at it, Miss Imposter and I. I’m more tolerant of her. I’m even starting to make friends with her. I realize that every stage of my life will require an engagement with her. I don’t feel as bad as I used to about it. I’m starting to understand that she comes with the territory. Every next level requires a different version of me. I might never get to a level where I’m fully confident, fully owning my place in the world and that is okay. I’m grateful that I don’t have to, to be successful. My name is Busisiwe Hlatswayo and I coach black women who like me suffer from the imposter syndrome, get to the next level of success in their careers.