Impostor Syndrome

Who would have thought that an Australian Aboriginal would be heading up the podium with his pairs partner in the Junior World Figure Skating Championships? Some thought against all odds. And Harley Windsor even had to convince himself that they had a right to be there:

“It was a little bit scary when we realised we were getting on the ice with all three Chinese pairs,” Mr Windsor told the Australian (newspaper), before the skate. “You don’t want to get in their way but then you kind of realise we are doing everything they are doing, so we have to have the mindset that we’re just as good as them and we have every right to be there.”

I have no doubt that quite a few skaters in this week’s World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki had moments when they wondered what on earth they were doing there among such illustrious names.

I’ve often worked with athletes who have trouble believing that they have that ‘right’ to be there. Maybe they’ve moved up to Junior or Senior level by virtue of their age – or they’re put in for an international competition where there are ‘big names’ among the competitors. And suddenly they suffer from Impostor Syndrome or ‘Little me-itis’.  The fact is – they are there on their own merit. Just like the so-called ‘big names’ they can jump triples (or even quads) but they still don’t believe they are good enough.

Impostor syndrome can hit anybody at any time when a sprinkling of self-doubt creeps in. At the moment they step up from being big fish in small pool to a small fish in a big wide ocean those gremlins start with the questions. Are you sure you belong here? Are you going to mess this up?

Many years ago, after half a career in the private sector I applied for a job in the public sector along with 4,500 others where only 22 were selected. I was older than the usual recruits (who were generally taken on straight out of university) and had a completely different background. Oh and I was a woman (let’s pop that one in there too!) and a mother. I got the job, but had to remind myself every now and again that they chose me out of 4,500 applicants. And no, they hadn’t made a mistake. Nor were they wondering what they had been thinking when they took me on.

As one young athlete reminded me once, it is unusual to win. Only one person out of a field of competitors, interview candidates, job applicants, gets the slot. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have every right to be up there with the best of them. You are one of the best or you wouldn’t be there. Your experience, your training counts every bit as much as the next person. Work hard, strive always to beat your own personal best and avoid comparison-itis. And repeat after me: “I have every right to be here!”

Read the article about Harley Windsor and his pairs partner in The Australian, here: