When I was 12 years old I cried myself to sleep every night for a week because I was a fraud.
People thought I was clever but I knew better. Despite working hard and doing well at school, deep down I knew I’d somehow cheated my way to success. I felt hopelessly out of my depth and lived in fear of the day other people also realised that I was crap at everything.
I know now that I was suffering — and still do suffer — from impostor syndrome. Not to be confused with false modesty, impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon of feeling like you’re faking it.
For us impostors, past successes are chalked up to luck, timing or somebody taking pity on us and giving us a free pass. Despite external recognition of our accomplishments, impostors can’t shake the feeling that they’re a little kid playing dress-ups in a grown up world.
On the odd occasions that I’ve let slip my guilty little secret to friends, you would have thought that I’d opened my own little Catholic confessional business. Outwardly confident and accomplished women spill the beans that they too are weighed down with self-doubt.