I know a guy who is truly amazing. He's one of the best humans I have ever met in my life. He's kind and caring, he is smart and effective, and he is currently kicking ass at a prestigious school.
How is it possible that he doesn't understand he is a big deal? Then the words came across my phone in a text message, "imposter syndrome."
I'll be the first to admit that the first time he said he had "imposter syndrome" I had to Google it.
According to Wikipedia:
"Imposter syndrome (also known as imposter phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud."
Like many other insecurities and mental illnesses, imposter syndrome can have extremely harmful effects to those with the syndrome, and those who love the sufferer.
The person with the syndrome may be more willing to sit back and do nothing opposed to really trying, for fear that they will be "found out." They may have extreme social anxiety in an otherwise calm environment, for fear that they will be exposed as not supposed to be there.
The person who loves the sufferer, is stuck between a rock and a hard place. I know with my friend, I love him dearly and truly am his number one fan.
However, cheerleading doesn't help him when he's having a moment.
I have to sit back and do nothing.
I have to sit back and do nothing. I have to allow him to work through his own feelings and anxiety. As a friend, this is truly one of the most difficult things to do.
I can't try to cheer him up because that feeds into the syndrome. It constantly leaves me guessing if that is why all these years later we are only friends.
Is he afraid that I think he is a fraud?
His syndrome causes me insecurities and he doesn't know. I haven't been honest about it because I am afraid that it will only make things worse for him.
If I were to point out that his imposter syndrome made me second guess everything about our friendship and relationship based solely on the ripple effect of insecurity, what would his reaction be?
Would I loose a friendship almost a decade old? Would I lose the chance of dating possibilities with him in the future? Is he capable of loving another person with this syndrome lingering in the background?
I have asked him that question, and his response was simply that the imposter syndrome typically only transfers into his school-work environment. He doesn't believe he is good enough to be where he is, and that it doesn't affect how he feels in his personal life or dating life.
I of course have to wonder if that is true or not.
How can he not know how amazing he is?
Since researching to find out how I can be a better friend to this man, I have found some amazing resources. One of which is the "Imposter Cast," a podcast that details people who you would never expect to be a sufferer of this syndrome and how their lives are really affected.
The episode that changed how I looked at imposter syndrome was titled, "Your Big Lie." We all have one after all, right? What lie do you tell yourself to keep yourself back from the true person you are supposed to be?
I have learned so much from watching this amazing friend suffer through his imposter syndrome. I have learned how to love him differently, and I have learned how to question myself and my own insecurities in a healthy way.
I have learned that effective communication is the only way to ease the ripple effects caused by loving someone with this syndrome.
Most of all, I have learned that sometimes, it's more than just an "insecurity" that will keep people from following their dreams. If you take the time to figure out what is the root of what appears to be a simple insecurity, you might find what lies beneath is actually inspiring in itself.