Imposter Syndrome: Life Behind a Mask

I’m appreciative of being accepted and acknowledged. I do interviews, speak in podcasts and livestreams. And I have been asked to be a leader many times. But the shadow of imposter syndrome haunts me every day in these moments. It haunts me from the time I wake up in the morning to the time I go to bed.

Imposter syndrome has an actual definition, but for me it is simply defined as a paralyzing feeling that I will be found out as a fraud, and I have simply gotten lucky so far. It haunts my every accomplishment and action, and this has been a staple of my existence ever since I was a child. As I accept that this is something that I go through, I realize that it’s something that is just a part of life for me.

I notice among late diagnosed autistics like myself that they, too, deal with some degree of imposter syndrome. I know that can, for me at least, partially stem from the fact that I mask. I live with a continuous feeling that this mask of neurotypicality will smother me. I have always felt like I was an actor playing the role of the perfect person– the one my family and society could accept.

So I discuss it. I speak on it. I write about it. I find comfort in knowing that others understand where I’m coming from. So I say to others who feel the same way I do: speak on it so you can help others as well. Know that you are not alone. Know that your negative feelings about yourself are natural byproduct of having to perform as “normal” and must be constantly checked.

I find that solidarity among other autistics can be a healing balm when we can speak unmasked and have our truth heard and validated.

Emmanuel
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4 Comments

  1. It was so obvious by age 2 that my son Ben was not “normal” that he never had to try to mask his autism. In 1994 at age 22 he chose to move half way around the world to join a large “normal” community that appreciates who he is and he seems to be quite happy with his life. We his parents joined him less than 1-1/2 years later and the three of us have lived together for over 24 years. With my public advocacy for over 40 years, I do know persons in situations similar to yours and I find your post of great interest. I wish you success for your future.

  2. Ever since my diagnosis, I am masking much less. I have become more at peace with my stimming, though I stop if someone else in the room is annoyed. I do agree with you, Emmanuel, I am more at ease among fellow autistics.

  3. As a NT who has lived with Imposter Syndrome, for a variety of reasons… it is SO IMPORTANT and powerful for me to read these stories. For me to be able to work with my autistic students and MAKE sure they feel safe enough to unmask with me. And to share with colleagues the importance of this reality for so many autistic individuals. Thank you for this eye opening read. I will definitely be sharing!

  4. I thought I was the only one that thought that. Well, me and my Aunt because she is the only person I ever talked about it with because she feels the same way. It’s incredibly interesting, but also bizarre to start learning about autistic behaviours/thinking as an older adult after my adult child received an ASD diagnosis, I see my entire life flashing before me through an autistic filter. For 30 years in the computer industry, despite actual successes, I always thought that one day they will find out I’m a complete fake. I used to count the stairs in and out of the building, counting down the impending doom of being outed as as an incompetent idiot. The millions of difficulties I endured alone, thinking I was “Abby Normal” and weird and odd. For 40 or so years, I saw therapists and doctors for help and treatment for ADHD, anxiety, and depression. No wonder I had a hard time dealing with life. Never dressed normal, never could socialize, or function ‘normally’ in small or large groups of people, and so on. Anyway, thanks for the post. I will be looking up imposter syndrome to lean more about it.

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