Neil Gaiman on Imposter Syndrome.

Written by Cole Schafer


Years ago the novelist Neil Gaiman found himself at a gathering of great artists, scientists, writers, entrepreneurs and discoverers.

Walking about, he was overwhelmed with imposter syndrome, terrified at any moment someone would look up and realize he didn’t belong.

Neil was standing towards the back of the room watching the evening’s musical entertainment unfold when a nice elderly gentleman struck up a conversation with him. Together, they explored all sorts of topics, including their shared first name.

The elderly Neil pointed to the room full of people and said something along the lines of, “I just look at all these people, and I think, what the heck am I doing here? They’ve made amazing things. I just went where I was sent.”

It was here where the younger Neil looked at the elderly Neil and said, “Yes, but you were the first man on the moon. I think that counts for something.”

Reflecting on the experience Gaiman later wrote…

And I felt a bit better. Because if Neil Armstrong felt like an imposter, maybe everyone did. Maybe there weren’t any grown-ups, only people who had worked hard and also got lucky and were slightly out of their depth, all of us doing the best job we could, which is all we can really hope for.

If imposter syndrome followed Neil Armstrong to the moon and back, I’m afraid you and I don’t have any hope of shaking it.

Instead, we must learn to dance with it, to embrace it, to see it not as a sign of our own inadequacy but as a gift that we’ve maintained our ability to dream without our feet having left the ground.

Imposter syndrome is felt by dreamers who’ve held strong to their humility.

And so if you’re a sufferer, congratulations.

Now, get back to work.But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer.