Neil Gaiman on imposter syndrome

October 1, 2021 • ☕️ 1 min read

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I don’t know much about imposter syndrome, I try not to dwell much on the subject. But I understand two things:

  • One, its real, its not some made up pop-culture term.
  • Second, I think its a sign of growth because having imposter syndrome means you’re moving. You can’t feel like an imposter when you’re not doing/creating anything. The only prerequisite of imposter syndrome is you having worked on something.

But whether you feel like an imposter or not, this little story that Neil Gaiman tells about feeling like an imposter will certainly put you at ease.

“Some years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to a gathering of great and good people: artists and scientists, writers and discoverers of things. And I felt that at any moment they would realize that I didn’t qualify to be there, among these people who had really done things.
On my second or third night there, I was standing at the back of the hall, while a musical entertainment happened, and I started talking to a very nice, polite, elderly gentleman about several things, including our shared first name. And then he pointed to the hall of people, and said words to the effect of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”
And I said, “Yes. But you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.” 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.”

And this makes me feel a little better because if Neil Gaiman thinks he’s an imposter, maybe it’s fine if I do too and I’ve not even written anything remotely as good as him.

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"The only thing I know is that I know nothing" - Socrates