The underdog’s answer to the imposter syndrome

The public’s perspective on our lives are invariably one-sided. While the world gets to see our success and achievements, each one of us has a private and intimate understanding of the struggles, the failings and the good fortune that got us there.

This asymmetry leads us to tell ourselves one of two stories – either that of being an impostor or that of being an underdog.

We feel like imposters because we see ourselves being counted among people we admire. This makes us feel uncomfortable and leads us to question our own place in a pantheon of giants. Telling ourselves this story encourages us to put our head down and meld into the backdrop rather than step forward and be counted.

The same situation could make us feel like underdogs. The people around may tower above us. But what our peers have in stature, we gain in opportunity. If we were to step forth, we don’t have much to lose – we are the underdogs after all – but so much to gain. Every challenge is an opportunity to elevate ourselves to the stature of the peers we admire.

Both those stories are fictions – they arise from our one-sided understanding of our own success as well as that of the people around us. However, one of those stories serves us better than the other one does.

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