It comes in the night. It comes for us all. Imposter syndrome, that constant feeling that you’re about to be revealed as a total fraud, seizes even the most successful among us plebes.
Exhibit A: An encounter between beloved author Neil Gaiman and another Neil, one whose historical importance can hardly be overstated. Gaiman wrote on his blog May 12 about meeting a legendary man, who said he felt out of place among great artists and scientists.
It was Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon. Wrote Gaiman:
And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.
Here’s the post in full:
Gaiman’s words of comfort to his fan, arguing that no one at all really feels like they know what they’re doing, is clearly resonating with people. A tweet by fantasy writer Alan Baxter, quoting Gaiman’s blog post, has been liked 41,000 times at time of writing.
The feeling that you are severely under-qualified for the task ahead of you, or that you’re secretly the most incompetent person in a room full of bonafide geniuses, it seems, is pervasive.