On Imposter Syndrome, Status, and Pushing the Limits as far as they will go
On Imposter Syndrome
There is this strange psychological phenomenon among top performers where they think they’re not worthy, that they really don’t know what they’re doing, that they’re imposters, that they don’t “deserve” to be where they are. I find this saddening. The people who are working the hardest — even doing the grunt work of, say, Excel and Powerpoint within the Ivory Tower of any given investment bank — are the very ones who think they shouldn’t be there, that some how they are not “worthy” or “enough.” While we all struggle with occasional feelings of inadequacy, the only place where we’re inadequate is in our own minds. We are prisoners inside our bodies, much like some of us are prisoners inside the very castles we pay and aspire for. (We pay for them with an even more expensive currency than money.) This is a classic case of not thinking things through before purchase. How is it that we cannot display emotional honesty when it comes to the possessions supposedly most dear to us?
It is a flaw of the human condition that we feel like imposters in the very professions we purport to be expert in. What could be more ironic? We spend 10 hours a day in the office running the numbers, writing stories for the presentation, replying to urgent and unimportant emails and yet some of us don’t feel we’re playing on the same field as others. We feel JV when we perceive others as Varsity. Why can’t we give ourselves credit for our efforts? Even when we become CEO, is this finally enough? Is it really about the title?
We never stop competing for status.
We consciously and unconsciously strive for a bit of colored stripe. We aim for Concierge Key on American (if we even know it exists). We desire lifetime executive status with Marriott. We shoot to finally “achieve” the VISA Black Card. The harder it is to get accepted into the country club, the more we want in. In Up in the Air, George Clooney’s character strives to be a ten million miler on American and achieves this elaborate yet strange goal. But how does he feel once he’s achieved it? What happens then? What’s next? More important, at what collective cost?
Status unconsciously drives us. Pecking order matters. People give you approval or hate you just because of your title. Status is a rather polarizing thing.
Greed is as natural as fear.
Back in 2008 when the economic sky was falling, eating the rich was a popular expression. The protestors protesting Wall Street Greed had all the self-righteousness on earth. It was a rather timely exhibition. The problem with protesting is it’s finite. Who has the time to protest all day, every day? Don’t you have kids to tend to? Don’t you have work to accomplish? Don’t you have your health to get after? The other problem with protesting is when you choose to doth protest against a human emotion like greed. Protesting against greed makes about as much sense as protesting against fear. Sure, you can do it, but why would you want to? While I’m not a big fan of fear, it can come in handy when facing a life-threatening situation. That’s why it’s hard-wired into us. Greed is as natural as fear.
It is another day of pushing the limits as far as they will go.
Perhaps the real, unconscious, unspoken reason why the “99%-ers” were protesting v. the “1%-ers” was the “99%-ers” actually desired to be the “1%-ers.” The Facebook and Twitterati and television news producers loved this pseudo-battle because it sparked controversy and it was perceived to be a David vs. Goliath contest. Only it wasn’t. Sure, the evil Wall Streeters pushed things too far. But that’s what they do. Sure, the government bailed out the rich people at the top. But that’s what they do. The Suits at Wells Fargo just did it again not one year ago. Bank of America still does it. The point is, it isn’t new. And therefore, it isn’t news. Those Greedy Wall Streeters are simply punching the time card. It is another day of pushing the limits as far as they will go. And they shall try to push them even farther tomorrow, for it is a new day on Wall Street.
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