Ego, sense of self, the impostor - psychology gone wild

This post has been cooking for a couple of weeks and was originally part of a longer post on my Wellington conference.  However it did not sit well there and felt a bit introspective.  So instead it now stands on its own.  Fully introspective and unrepentant. I have learnt a lot about myself in this past year and especially during my time with the INELI (International Network of Emerging Library Innovators) crew.  Finding myself amongst this group of people has taught me (once again) that assumptions about people based on an initial encounters are often wrong.  I know this instinctively, but like most I guess, it is still easy to do.  Also, it has reminded me that how others see me, is not often how I see myself.  My ability to be a self critic is well honed and skilled.  Like many, I am often my own ego's worst enemy.

In psychological terms, much of this is indeed linked to the 'ego' (not wanting to get too Freud) where acceptance and sense of self worth reside.  In a group like this, it is very easy to look inwards and judge oneself critically in terms of contribution.  When surrounded by so many great people, one's own sense of self can be laid bare.  Self defense is a natural reaction in these circumstances, if somewhat irrational, and it is easy to overcook situations which at other times would mean nothing to you. The impostor syndrome, does not need much encouragement to come to the surface.

When someone from another culture does not want to make eye contact with you or engage in a conversation, it is probably not because they think they are somehow better than you.  No matter how much your subconscious will try to tell you otherwise.  More likely it is because they are shy and talking and thinking in English is tiring.  Right now they just need a break.  It only takes a chance encounter and conversation with a colleague, as I had one night while I was away, to remind you of this.  I wont go into the details, but an unplanned dinner and conversation with someone, reminded me how rich life can be and to get out of my own head.  They could not have known it, but when we bumped into each other and decided to dine together I was at a low point and they turned my evening around.  Chance?  Luck? Fate?

The reality is the more successful one becomes, the more rarified the atmosphere is and the more isolated you can feel.  You are paid well, but with that comes and expectation of being able to deal with more, be judged by many more people.  I admire those who appear to exist in this world without too much difficulty.  For me this is much more of a challenge, and yet it is a challenge that while I may not always enjoy it, is one i am up for.  I have been looking for development challenges for 2012, and I think I just found one of mine.