There’s An Imposter In Our Midst


Photo courtesy of Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

You read last Tuesday’s article, right? If not, read it here now because it ties into today’s post. Go ahead. We’ll wait for you to catch up. Raise your hand when you’re ready to move on.

OK just admit it. You were highly impressed not only by Capt. Sullenberger’s piloting skills, but also his exemplary decision making, his executive calmness, and his ultra-focused “I have 155 souls on board to save” attitude.

One of the dreams Sully has in the movie version of the Miracle on the Hudson story depicts Katie Couric broadcasting the way so many news stories are presented today; she hints that there may be more to the story than is being presented and asks the viewing audience, “So is Sully a hero or is he a fraud?”

I love that scene because in an actual Couric interview about a month after the forced water landing, Capt. Sullenberger tells her this: “One of the hardest things for me to do in this whole experience was to forgive myself for not having done something else, something better, something more complete…I don’t know.”

Something better? Something more complete? Like what?

He also said that in the period immediately after the event he replayed the situation endlessly, and he began to question himself. He went through a loop of “what if’s?” and “did we make the best choices?” and “were we aware of everything we could have been aware of?”

This very common reaction has the title of “imposter syndrome.”  Psychologists name it “impostor phenomenon.”

A review published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science says that at some point, an estimated 70% of people experience these types of feelings: that we are a phony, a fraud, an imposter.

It can also manifest as thinking that we are NOT actually smart or wise or talented or qualified or accomplished or a good student and quick learner and instead –Hey, we were just lucky. We don’t deserve the spotlight, the accolades, the promotion, the applause, the success.

And as with any phony, fraud, or imposter, we carry a deep-set fear: Someone is going to find out sooner or later.

When first identified in the late 70s, psychologists believed that this was a women’s disorder. But now it’s recognized as affecting men and women alike, from young people to the elderly.

I’ll admit to feeling this myself at times. The night before I’m to speak to an audience, I find myself thinking, “Why do they want to hear me? Surely someone else knows more about this subject and can speak more proficiently on it than I can.”

Yes, even though I’ve been psyched up to speak for weeks, and know I have a killer presentation, and recognize that I have rehearsed many hours…even so, that old “who do you think you are?” voice can begin whispering in my ear.

Fortunately, when I realize what I’m doing, I just tell it to shut up and go away.

That’s one of the first steps of overcoming imposter syndrome; recognizing what you’re feeling. I’ve included a link below to a article that provides helpful information on it and offers ideas on overcoming the distressing ailment.

Because if it can affect a hero like Capt. Sullenberger, it can happen to anyone.


Couric interview. The section noted above begins at 3:47.

Excellent article with suggestions on dealing with Imposter Syndrome

2 thoughts on “There’s An Imposter In Our Midst

  1. Judy Jones says:

    WOW! WOW! WOW!
    We certainly are very complex ! I think we analyze all that we do. The what ifs? can tear you apart.
    Our new favorite sayings in our home are “it is what it is” and “Let it Go!!!!!” (say it or sing it)
    Great information!
    Thanks again Norma

    • Norma Thatcher says:

      I think I need to create an award for you as my most frequent commenter. It would have to be in the shape of a hug! Thank you for your unwavering support. I appreciate it more than you know!

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