I remember watching a TV documentary in the early 90s about four very successful New Zealand businesswomen. One of them, the head of a publishing company, surprised me by confessing that she constantly felt inadequate, and this spurred her on to work harder and always be better prepared than anyone else, in case they “caught her out” and discovered her biggest secret. She felt like a fraud, despite her evident intelligence, humanity and abilities. I was surprised.
But I was also secretly comforted. Other women felt the same way I did. (Do men suffer from this? Less so, I think). I too struggled to feel confident with my own talents and abilities. I realise now that I was intimidated by people who used their innate confidence and, at times, aggression to cow the rest of us into the belief that they knew what they were talking about. Consequently, these were the people I saw getting ahead, and I got very disillusioned at times.
Fortunately now though, I am increasingly aware I suffer from the fraud syndrome, aware that the negative conversations I have in my head are generated from my own lack of confidence. I know that if I pretend confidence, no-one will know that I feel a fraud, even if my stomach is tied in knots and doing acrobatics at the same time.
This last week I was re-elected to my position on the Board and had to chair two major meetings. I’d had a few difficult issues to deal with earlier in the year and some sleepless nights as a result. I worried that I would be voted off, and as my husband said, was seeing conspiracies where there weren’t any. By the end of the week I think I am finally beginning to believe that I deserve to be in this role, that I am doing just as well as my quite illustrious predecessors, and that I am not a fraud. I do in fact know what I’m talking about. Experience and commonsense count. Maybe other people have recognised this, even if I haven't. Up till now.
So as my hair greys, frown lines appear and eyesight lengthens, I am feeling much more comfortable in my own skin (if not the mirror).
The fading of the fraud syndrome. Nobody talks about that. But it’s definitely one of the good things about growing older.