My Imposter Syndrome Finds Its Root In A Gendered Upbringing
Every day when I wake up, the fear of not being good enough engulfs my thoughts, weakens my body and dampens my morning vibes. Though I have come so far in life with significant achievements in life, it all seems like a waste. I could never own the credits of whatever I did in life. I have always identified myself as a timid, exhausted and failed person and the accolades that I received on my works only seems fake. It’s only when I grew up, I realised this was actually a kind of psychological problem widely known as Imposter Syndrome.
As I discovered this syndrome is more common among women. It is deeply rooted in the gender discrimination that they face in their lives, work or educational institutions that make them feel inferior and fake. The biases that expect them to behave or appear according to the social standards even though they have achieved significant success in life pulls them back from owning their achievements. And this co-relation does not start at once in life but has a deeper root in their gendered upbringing. When I look back, I could see just how my upbringing was the root of all my fears and anxieties and now my imposter too.
Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.
I have been brought up in a conservative family in a small village racing to become a town. Much earlier in life, I realised that not all women are allowed access to education like me. More than anyone else, my mother became an example of that. Despite being an ambitious woman, she wasn’t allowed to appear for the last paper of her graduation exams because she got married. And so since a very young age, I was aware that I have to make use of my privilege to fight off the chances that I too will have to let go everything once I get married. This not only increased the pressure to achieve something in life but also made me internalise a fear about people, society and marriage. I always expected more from myself without even thinking of how much I can do. I don’t remember since when, but the primary aim of my life was to take my mother away from a marriage that was abusive and in-laws that took away her agency.
I tried to overcome my childhood fears through hard work and dedication but all came to a pause when my life took another turn. The second blow of disillusionment with life was when I suddenly realised that I was sexually harassed multiple times and I had no language to express the disgust when it happened. I couldn’t even wipe the tears rolling down on the shreds of my ruptured sense of self, the fear of marriage bringing an end to my identity looms over my present and future all over again. Did I even move, evolve and win at all, is the question that keeps me awake.
I feel like living a dual life in which one is about seeking success despite my reservation and the other where the same reservations are trying to take over my reality. One one side, I am trying each day to be my best but the question of marriage and its tendency to blur my choices, selfhood and whatever that I have today, makes reality and façade so interchangeable. What even is my reality? I have engaged with so many empowered women and theories and they have widened my perspective of life that certainly doesn’t hover around my marriage or motherhood. But the moment I turn to familial reality, only silence, fear and disillusionment prevails because none of the empowered ideas makes sense. I am torn inside to see that I am forced to conform to the very stereotypes that I try to defy through my works. How then will any success seem real? And the fact that I am not able to resist the stereotypes that my family perpetuates, makes me feel even weaker and defeated.
When I don’t have the control in the major part of my life, my hold on the things that I own also loosens. To pretend to “power through” the day while feeling like a failure is difficult. Productivity and concentration have decreased even more. But still, I couldn’t find any solution to it yet. My imposter has only added to the stereotype and battles that I have fight off no matter what.