Imposter Syndrome & External Validation
In China, the face is used idiomatically to talk about confidence, how you appear to the world, how you present yourself to the world, your right to present yourself in a
space, and the weight that comes with that right.
A few months ago I planned a charity event with my Popo (grandmother), and this idiom came back to me while observing the difference between her face, and mine. We had a casual conversation over lunch about doing more art and perhaps hosting an art night of sorts. I had originally imagined 10–15 people, some wine, and a few canvases. If we made any money, we could give it to a charity my friend was supporting. My grandmother loved the idea, as she loves excitement and opportunities to help the less fortunate, and ran with it. She ran far with it too. She drew up this huge long list of people she knew and sat at the dinner table that night calling them up one by one.
“Hello?? Listen I’m calling to extort some money from you” “Sure, how much?”
It literally went like that. She didn’t even tell them it was for charity yet. She had such smooth conviction in her voice, that it didn’t stir or provoke the listener's suspicion at all. She sounded reliable because she knew she was reliable. She sounded correct because in her heart she knew she was correct. She was certain, she didn’t second guess herself. And why should she? She was planning an event she knew would be amazing because she was planning it. She was asking for money for charity because, why would that be too much to ask? And you know what? Her friends could hear that in her voice too. Most of them, close to her or not, responded positively and agreed to contribute long before she even explained the event or the charity.
Most people think that it’s others who don’t believe in them.
When you go out in the world, it’s easy to feel the suspicion and discretion of others; a daily performance, a daily audition for validation. However, the truth is that people are more intuitive than they are logical. People make judgements based on how you project yourself: your body language, when you ask for permission, your tone of voice, and your phrasing. For example, if you feel imposter syndrome, you may ask your supervisor simple questions. You may double-check every assignment you are given. You may hype up your supervisor's accomplishments more than your own around company. Maybe, you simply stutter each time you have to show your own work. Whatever it is you do, your actions will reflect the way you think about yourself — and the way others respond to you will be a mirror of what you put out. People do not have a microscope or a full biography of your life to know if you are an expert or not. In fact, even having this information is generally useless if someone feels differently when interacting with you. Therefore, it’s essential to know, that getting positive responses and validation from the outside world, is all about you and the inner work you do to project confidence.
Watching my Popo, I realised just how thick her face was ( ). Not only did she know what she looked like, and who she was, the opinions and thoughts of others could never penetrate her skin. It’s not only about protecting your own energy but about feeling so sure you never look externally to confirm the answers. The answers, lie inside of you.