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, vulgar and dull we really are. we live the possibility of succes, 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 cores 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 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 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 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 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.