The Great Pretender

Are you full of confidence or have you ever suffered from Imposter Syndrome? Tell us all about it.

I vowed that I wouldn’t write public posts like this. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’ll get on because the clock is running anyway. This is me trying to logically run through a situation so that I can come out the other side. I’d written most of it in a private post (I have another that I might publish for the same reason) to get my thoughts out and maybe someone out there can recognise what I write and knows where to go…

I think we’ve probably all done the quiz “Which Friends Character Are You?”  I’m currently on season 10 for the second time (having probably seen every episode not in order many times previously) and always assumed myself to be Ross – the geek of the group. This second time round I’m pretty sure I have some of Chandler too because I have awkwardness that I’ll try to hide with something else. Plus, Ross actually ends up with Rachel in the end.

The point of the quiz (if it having a point is not too strong) is that each character in the group has their own traits and forges their own niche. By answering a few questions an algorithm can calculate who the author of the quiz thinks you match more closely.

When I look at my group of friends, I can see strengths in all of them. I know The Clever One, The Organiser, The Job Getter, The Arguer, The One Who Just Does Everything To Get Things Done, The Family Man. I also see friends who are the best in the group at things – the best snowboarder, the best skier, the funniest, the brightest, the highest earner, the best bus driver, the best musician, the best cook, the best builder of things, the best builder of beard. At work I can identify leadership styles in people as well as the physical and technical more tangible skills that they bring to the table.

I look at myself and can’t work out where my niche is. I’m not the best at anything. I once thought I had the dubious honour of being the best at spreadsheets but most people are telling me that that’s not the case. One of my friends has beaten my Rubik’s Cube record. When I played football it was the on-running joke that I was third choice in every position – a classic Jack of All Trades But Master of None who would be adequate at whatever he was asked to do but he’d only be asked to do it when no-one better was available.

No-one looks at me and identifies a trait. Even at work a few years ago I got a special global commendation for something I’d done but I couldn’t work out what made it or my performance special. It needed to be done; I did it. If I didn’t, someone else would have.

When I do get a compliment it’s beginning to feel like a sympathy vote because it’s always saying “Good try, but just not quite”. The personal “You’re really sweet doing that for me” and the work “You’ll help anybody out” seems to be “You’re a pushover”. The “I don’t know why you’re single, you’re such a nice / lovely guy” can of course be followed by “Must be because you’re ****ing ugly”. And that last example is even worse when it becomes “I don’t know why you’re single, you’re such a nice / lovely guy and anyone would be lucky to have you…” because the caveat to that is “…just not me because I’ve got someone better”.

As much as anyone can say the right thing and say that I shouldn’t be making comparisons or say cliched things like “You’re only in a race against yourself” and that “self worth comes from within”, as a species with the ability for thought and decision making we are always ranking and comparing even at a subconscious level. Faced with a choice of three mice the cat will make a decision on which to catch first based on any number of factors – the closest, the slowest, the biggest, the smallest…

I feel like my niche is all those not-quite-positive things. I am The Distinctly Average Consolation Who Will Do Anything For You When There Is No-one Else Available. I’m at my best when I feel like I’m worth something to someone, whether that be them enjoying a coffee I get them or something deeper. It’s when I’m happiest, and that’s not because I want something back in return – I get my kicks from being the useful person. I struggle for my self-worth when I feel that no-one needs me, however incorrect that statement is about defining self-worth by one’s worth to others. Unfortunately for me there are many things happening in my life that are making me feel like I am a bit of an imposter and I’m not sure how to escape.

I’m the voice inside your head
You refuse to hear.
I’m the face that you have to face
Mirrored in your stare.
I’m what’s left, I’m what’s right,
I’m the enemy.
I’m the hand that will take you down,
Bring you to your knees.

So who are you?
Yeah, who are you?
Yeah, who are you?
Yeah, who are you?

The Pretender by Foo Fighters

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