Writer’s Workshop: Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire…

I’m sure most of you know all about impostor syndrome, which Wikipedia tells us

is a psychological occurrence in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon do not believe they deserve their success or luck. They may incorrectly attribute it to the Matthew effect, or they may think that they are deceiving others because they feel as if they are not as intelligent as they outwardly portray themselves to be. Impostor syndrome can stem from and result in strained personal relationships and can hinder individuals from achieving their full potential in their fields of interest.

In other words, the fear of being outed as a fake, a phony, a bullshitter, whatever.

I’ve mentioned before how I think my unwillingness to write a résumé kept me from leaving a job that I had held for 20 years, even though there were reasons almost every year of that period of time that I really should have. A big part of my reluctance to write a résumé was the pangs of guilt I would have when I would put down when I said I had done something. I might very well have done the thing, and have the documentation to prove it, but I would start questioning just how well I had done it.

It was as though one of the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus had imbedded herself in my brain, and every time I would write down an achievment, she would say “Now, Mr. Holton, how are you going to prove that you had done that?” It’s that whole “Permanent Record” thing, that somehow, locked in a file cabinet somewhere (probably in the fallout shelter under Loyola Avenue) was the real story of Holton, John C., DOB 3/25/1956 which had somehow continued to update itself after all these years and which anyone but me could see and get the real story on who I was, warts and all, and what I had really done.

I figured out long after I was forced into retirement that everyone pads their résumé to a greater or lesser extent, and that it’s quite common for someone to say they can do something on their résumé and in their interviews while simultaneously teaching themselves how to do that thing in their off hours.


18 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire…

  1. Wow! Have been there/done that, John.

    But, my thinking was to get my foot as far in some door as possible, and then launch into warpspeed mode and learn the required protocol. Worked sometimes, but not all.

    Seems to work best for most politicians…


    1. I love when they take the oath to “preserve, uphold, and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic,” because my guess is that at least half haven’t a clue what the document says and nearly all of them break their oath within about a month of their taking office.


  2. Oh man…I have this in spades I think. It’s very hard for me to say I do well in something especially when I see what someone else has done. I am great at beating down what I do. I hate resume writing…yuck!


    1. IT is the kind of a field where, once you have the basics, everything else is fairly easy to learn. It’s almost as though recruiters and hiring managers expect the people they interview and hire not to be experts YET, but that by the time they report for work they’ll know what they’re doing. That was something I never quite figured out, even though I’ve done it …

      Liked by 1 person

  3. There’s a reason people say “fake it til you make it!” I had a friend who was a nurse and she said she always applied for new jobs and said she could do things when she really couldn’t. She lived by the motto of get the job and worry about the work later! I don’t think I could quite justify that but I have indeed padded ye old resume.


  4. I felt this big time when I became a teacher. I did not feel like I deserved my degree or that I was as smart as the other teachers at the school I worked at. What a shame it kept you at a job longer than it should have though!


    1. Mom, who taught for 37 years, never felt qualified her first couple of years, either.

      My problem was that I wasn’t brazen enough to claim I could do something, then sit down and actually learn it.


  5. It’s better than narcissism. A little humility is not a bad thing, but it sounds like yours went a bit extreme. I imagine you were good at plenty. You should have had Mary put it together. She likely knows most of it and would have sung your praises. Glad my job interview days are behind me. I still might put together a package for publication again someday if I can get my s… together.


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