Impostor Syndrome’s Ugly Cousin

I wrote up a spreadsheet today to keep track of how many tasks I’ve finished during this internship and how many I have in progress. Out of fifteen tasks, one is finished – but that one was fairly simple. I have a lot to work on, but I’m not panicking because I know what I’m doing and it feels nice to be trusted to get work done.

But it’s still hard for me to take a sincere compliment. When someone else tells me that I’ve done a good job, part of me wants to say “Hell yeah, I know I’m good.” That urge is held in check by a stronger inner voice that keeps telling me to check myself before I wreck myself. Don’t let it go to your head, it says.

Maybe it’s because the modus operandi I’ve employed for most of my life is to do my job, do it well, and do it quietly. It helped me get through boot camp relatively unscathed – which is hard to do when you’re a scrawny teenager with coke bottle glasses and poofy red Carrot Top hair. But I’ve survived this long by being quiet, and it startles the crap out of me when anyone gives me any kind of positive attention. So when I found out that my department nominated me for a prestigious scholarship at the end of this last quarter, I was flabbergasted. When both my supervisor and my team lead looked over my first official pitch letter recently and said that it has “a lot of great ideas,” I genuinely didn’t know what to do.

It’s all too easy to look at someone who has this kind of problem and say “Well, duh, you’re supposed to say thank you.” But if you’ve experienced this, you know the feeling. It’s not quite impostor syndrome, but close enough. Like impostor syndrome’s ugly cousin. I know that I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t deserve it, though, and I wouldn’t be trusted with so many projects if I hadn’t demonstrated some kind of competency. So even though I’m still staying quiet, I’m re-learning how to say thank you.

It’s not easy.

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