In many challenges: personal and professional,
we are held back by the crippling thought
that people like us could not possibly triumph.
Given what we know of ourselves,
how reliably stupid, anxious, gauche, crude,
我们是多么愚蠢 焦虑 笨拙 粗鲁
vulgar and dull we really are,
we leave the possibility of success to others, because we do not seem to ourselves
to be anything like the sort of people we see lauded around us.
Faced with responsibility or prestige, we quickly become convinced
that we are simply: impostors,
like an actor, in the role of a pilot,
wearing a uniform, and making sunny cabin announcements
while utterly incapable of even starting the engines.
It can feel easier, simply not to try.
The root cause of the impostor syndrome
is a hugely unhelpful picture of what other people are really like.
We feel like impostors, not beacause we are uniquely flawed,
but because we fail to imagine how deeply flawed
everyone else must necessarily also be, beneath the more or less polished surface.
The impostor syndrome has its roots far back in childhood,
specifically, in the powerful sense children have
that their parents are really very different from them.
To a four-year-old, it’s incomprehensible that their mother was once their age
and unable to drive a car, tell the plumber what to do,
decide other people’s bedtimes and go on planes with colleagues.
The gulf in status appears absolute and unbreachable.
The child’s passionate loves, pouncing on the sofa, pingu, toblerone,
孩子酷爱沙发蹦迪 企鹅家族 三角巧克力
have nothing to do with those of adults
who like to sit at a table talking for hours
when they could be running about outside,
and drink beer, which tastes of rusty metal.
We start out in life with a very strong impression
that other people, especially competent and admirable other people,
are really not like us, at all.
This childhood experience
dovetails with a basic feature of the human condition:
we know ourselves from the inside,
but we know others only from the outside.
So we’re constantly aware of all our anxieties, doubts and idiocies,
yet all we know of others
is what they happen to do and tell us,
which is a far narrower and more edited source of information.
We’re often left to conclude
that we are isolated at the more freakish and revolting end of human nature.
自己天性异于常人 更畸形 更令人反感
Far from it,
we’re just failing to imagine
that others are, of course, every bit as disturbed as we are.
Without knowing exactly what it is
that troubles or racks another outwardly very impressive person,
we can be sure that it will be something.
We might not know exactly what they regret,
but there will be agonizing feelings of some kind.
We won’t be able to say exactly
what kind of unusual, sexual kink obsesses them,
but there will be one.
And we can know this because vulnerabilities and compulsions
cannot be curses that have just ascended upon us uniquely.
They are universal features of human mental equipment.
The solution to the impostor syndrome
lies in making a crucial leap of faith:
the leap that others’ minds must work
in basically much the same way as ours do.
Everyone must be as anxious, uncertain and wayward as we are.
It’s a leap of faith because we just have to accept
that the majority of what we feel and are,
especially the more shameful, unmentionable sides,
will have a corollary in each and every one of us.
One of the tasks that works of art should ideally accomplish
is to take us more reliably into the minds of people we’re intimidated by
in order to show us the more average, muddled and fretful experiences that they have.
以便我们了解他们更平常 混乱 烦躁的经历
That way, we would be helped to understand
that we’re not barred by our vulnerabilities from doing what they do.
That’s what the philosopher Montaigne
writing in the 16th century was attempting to do
when he playfully informed his readers in plain French that
“kings and philosophers shit and so do ladies!”
Montaigne’s point is that for all the evidence that exists about this shitting,
we might not guess that these people ever had to squat on a toilet,
we never see distinguished types doing this
while of course we are immensely well informed about our own digestive activities
and therefore we build up a sense
that because we have crude and sometimes rather desperate bowels,
we can’t be philosophers, kings or ladies
and that if we set ourselves up in these roles,
we would just be impostors.
Montaigne’s example is a neat one,
because despite the lack of evidence,
we know that these exalted people
must of course excrete in exactly the same way we do.
So, with Montaigne’s guidance,
we’re invited to take on a saner sense
of what grand, powerful and beautiful people are really like.
But the real target isn’t just an under confidence about bodily functions,
this point extends into the psychological arena too.
Montaigne might also have said that kings, philosophers and ladies
are wracked by self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy,
sometimes bump into doors,
and have weird, lustful thoughts about members of their own families.
Furthermore, instead of considering only the big figures of 16th century France,
we could update this example
and refer to CEOs, corporate lawyers, news presenters and successful start-up entrepreneurs.
如总裁 企业律师 新闻主播和成功的创业者
They too, can’t cope, feel they might buckle under pressure
and look back on certain decisions with shame and regret.
No less than shitting, such feelings are not what separates us from them.
Our inner frailties don’t cut us off from doing what they do.
If we were in their roles, we’d not be impostors,
we’d simply be normal.
Making a leap of faith around what other people are really like
helps us to humanize the world.
It means that whenever we encounter a stranger,
we’re not really encountering a stranger,
we’re in fact encountering someone who is,
in spite of the surface evidence to the contrary,
in basic ways, very much like us.
And therefore, nothing fundamental stands between us
and the possibility of responsibility, success and fulfillment.
In many challenges: personal and professional,