8/09/2010

When I am King: Be All You Can't Be

When I am King...

We will all be imposters.

I've had this nagging feeling through many years of university and every job I've had since. I feel that I have landed where I am not through merit, accomplishment, or actual intelligence, but rather through some magical coincidence and general mistaken belief by others that I am someone entirely different and better than the person I know myself to be. I am, essentially, an impostor.

On one hand, it seems like something that's not so horrible; lucky me if I can achieve at a level impossibly above my potential. On the other hand, it's followed by a feeling of guilt and fear. Guilt that I'm occupying the spot that should be rightfully held by someone far cleverer than I. And fear that one day I will be found out and will soon make my living dispensing carts at Walmart. And still, I'd have a feeling that I was unqualified for the work. (Am I saying "Have a nice day!" too forcefully? Does my blue polyester vest ill-fit me appropriately?)

I heard, recently, that this is a common feeling, called the Impostor Syndrome. Apparently, others have this same feeling about themselves. Which means that if you feel like you don't belong, then you should feel right at home.

The fact that psychologists have named and documented this syndrome should make me feel better. If others feel this way, then maybe I'm not so far out of whack, after all. But instead, I find myself wondering whether I should feel more out of place than I do. Am I as good an impostor as I can be? Perhaps these other impostors impost better than my amateurish imposting. Perhaps there's someone out there that would fit in better because they would feel more out of place than I do.

Meanwhile, the workforce of our society malingers in this cesspool of self-doubt, unable to achieve to its full potential because of the emotional energy being spent on sheer adequateness. The productivity lost to internal feelings of ineptitude is staggering.

When I am King, everyone will be an impostor. No longer will we wonder whether we are good enough in our roles, because we will be placed in jobs for which we are wholly unqualified to begin with. Engineering students will become social workers, forced to work with people and issues that they've spent their entire lives trying to avoid. Beauticians will be employed as butchers, accountants as performance artists, and mimes as talk show hosts. Politicians can stay politicians, because they are already perfectly unsuited for what they are elected to do.

No longer will we have these nagging self-doubts about whether we're doing the right thing in life and whether our peers wonder how we got there. Instead, it will be clear to us and to everyone else that we are exactly the wrong person for the job. And so are they. We can finally get past the doubt and insecurity and get down to the business of confidently screwing up our work.

Note that I will keep my position as King, for which I am imminently unqualified. Although I do sometimes wonder whether I'm really unqualified enough...
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