Comments on Imposter Syndrome

“The people who have Imposter Syndrome are usually the ones who know their stuff.”

I’ve been away from doing research — my research — for several years. Once upon a time, I was up-to-date on taphonomy, physical anthropology, scattered remains, and the like. My knowledge was current. I knew my stuff. I had to be in order to defend my Master’s thesis. But now? Meh.

So, what the hell am I doing, attempting to step out in to the consulting world, saying that I can help people?

Being an expert requires decades of dedication and research. Granted, taphonomic research moves at the speed of taphonomy (kinda like the speed of erosion, decomposition, weathering, etc.), so I’m not that far out of touch. However, the literature is not on the tip of my brain like it used to be. As well, I don’t know the new trends. (What the hell is ‘mixed methods’ anyway? Just outline your damn methods, already! See below.) So proposing to do research with the RCMP, for people who could really use this research, is quaking me to the core.

The problem is I feel like I’m being called back to my research, to my desire to help people.

I was asked to do a guest lecture on Forensic Archaeology last year. Standing in front of those students awoke something in me that I’d forgotten — passion. I have a passion for anthropology. And while the people I like are dead, this passion was a living breathing thing filling me with fire and light. I was alive! It had been so long since I’d felt real passion that I’d forgotten what it was like. It was euphoric, like being in love.

I want it back.

But it’s scary.

While passion is where the fire and light and life are, this is also where the fear is. There is an expectation that I should know everything there is to know about scattered remains. I need to be an expert. Even if it is an implied expectation, it’s still there, hanging over my shoulder. Hell, even I have this expectation! What happens if I can’t answer a question or I’m wrong? What if I screw up a search or an investigation? What if I come off as a complete idiot? This is a high-stakes arena; I gotta know what I’m doing! Who am I to think I can do this???

Passion is the place of vulnerability.

“If you’re not scared shitless, you’re not investing enough.”

I’ve now come to the conclusion that I haven’t felt passionate or alive in a while because I haven’t felt afraid. Really afraid.

I’ve done my healing in the safety of my home, within the loving embrace of my community. I sense this is about to change. Two influential people in my life — a career counsellor and a healer — are among many who have helped me along this journey, and I’ve taken liberty to quote them here. Without their help and that of others, I wouldn’t be here, now or likely at all. I hope you have your own resources that are helping you find your passion.

My name is Yvonne. I have Imposter Syndrome. Having Imposter Syndrome means I am scared shitless. I am scared shitless because I am fully invested. Being fully invested means I know my shit.

So take that, ego!


Further reading:

Research Whisperer: Mixed-Up Methods and “I’m not worthy!” – Imposter Syndrome in Academia and An open letter to the ultimate imposter

The Poised Life: Are we on the path of knowledge?

3 responses to “Comments on Imposter Syndrome

  1. I disagree that passion is at the root of fear and imposter syndrome. I’ve seen passionate people who are fearless. Mostly because their passion blinds them; it fuels their confirmation bias and they usually present as annoyingly ignorant. I think it’s got more to do with COMpassion, this desire to serve others more than ourselves, that can cause imposter syndrome.


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