“I always feel like something of an impostor. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Jodie Foster made that comment when she was guest of honor at a Hollywood Reporter Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast, as recipient of the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award.
A highly accomplished actor-director-producer, Foster said, “I don’t feel very powerful. I feel fragile… unsure, struggling to figure it all out.”
She characterized herself as a “professional” and a “gentleman,” but also said about working in entertainment for 42 years: “there’s no way you can do that and not be as nutty as a fruitcake.
“I always feel like something of an impostor. I don’t know what I’m doing,” she said. “I suppose that’s my one little secret, the secret of my success.”
[From article: “Jodie Foster Given Leadership Award,” washingtonpost.com, Dec5, 2007.]
Someday they’d find out
Years ago, she was also experiencing these feelings, saying in a tv interview [CBS, 1995] that before her Oscar-winning performance in “The Accused” she felt “like an impostor, faking it, that someday they’d find out I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t. I still don’t.”
Those quotes are in my article Gifted Women: Identity and Expression.
These feelings are, of course, not exclusive to women; many of us men also are beset – but there may be more social pressure on girls and women.
Foster has found a positive value in her experience, but that may not be the case for most people.
The Imposter Syndrome / Impostor Phenomenon
Here is a definition from the Women’s Studies Encyclopedia, Revised and Expanded Edition, 1999, from an article by Emily Rothman:
“The Imposter Phenomenon is an internal experience of intellectual phoniness that seems to be prevalent among high-achieving persons, with particularly deleterious effects on women…
“It is an emotionally debilitating condition characterized by persistent and unwarranted anxiety about achievement, dread of evaluation, fear of failure and exposure, inability to internalize success, and lack of enjoyment of accomplishment and achievement.”
Feeling like an impostor is one form of self-doubt.
How can we deal with it? Here is one article:
How does our critical inner dialogue affect our creativity, self confidence and other parts of our life?
Can we learn to change our self-limiting inner critical voice and use more supportive thoughts to motivate ourselves and improve low self esteem?
* Elizabeth Gilbert talks about blind spots and self-compassion.
* Tara Mohr talks about how to “banish that critical voice in your head.”
* Author Michael Singer says spiritual growth can begin by silencing the negative thoughts in our minds.
* See article for much more, including videos.
Getting beyond impostor feelings. From the article: Emma Watson commented about its impact for her:
“It’s almost like the better I do, the more my feeling of inadequacy actually increases, because I’m just going, Any moment, someone’s going to find out I’m a total fraud, and that I don’t deserve any of what I’ve achieved.
Internal barriers, personal issues, and decisions faced by gifted and talented females, by Sally M. Reis, Ph.D.
10 Steps to Overcome the Impostor Syndrome, by Dr. Valerie Young.
Program by Valerie Young: Overcome the Impostor Syndrome