Everywhere I turn at INSEAD, I see bright, talented, young people, with rich life experiences, careers spanning several countries and incredible stories. And when I hear all that, I quietly think to myself: “What am I doing here? These people are so amazing, have such incredible career successes, they sound extraordinary compared to my puny engineering background… how did I ever get in?”
The impostor syndrome is a psychological condition in which the subject, usually a high achiever, is convinced that they are not deserving of their success.
Whilst I do not mean to suggest that all INSEADers suffer from mental disorder, it is hard when surrounded by so much talent not to benchmark yourself against it. Imagine the situation for a moment: you are used to being one of the smartest people in the room and suddenly you are surrounded by gifted individuals… You meet a polyglot who speaks seven languages when you’ve only just scraped through on your exit language exam, you meet someone who has travelled 60 countries when you have “only” visited a handful, you meet someone who was responsible for multi-million dollar projects when you had no financial responsibilities… In the face of such talent and success you feel like your own personal achievements are trivial.
And yet when I talk about my background, working in the remote Australian outback in the iron ore mines a thousand kilometers from the nearest major city and how I lived for days on end in the desert working outdoors by 45°C, my classmates’ eyes light up full of curiosity about what they see as an unusual life story. For me, my story is not unusual, just another mining industry story, yet at INSEAD, I am one of a kind
And so, I come to realize that perhaps they, too, wonder why they got accepted into INSEAD, that they, too, think that they are the least interesting person in the room…
Whenever you speak to someone from INSEAD, be it an admitted student, a current student or alumni, you will always be amazed by their successes, their drive, their passion… and more often than not that person will make it sound as if it was nothing out of the ordinary, not out of arrogance as you would expect from “type A” MBA personalities, but from a genuine belief that they are no better than their peers.
The best way to describe an INSEAD class really, is to say that it is full of humble, high achieving… impostors.
It’s now been 6 weeks since the start of the program and we have all started to find our feet here. I no longer feel like there are so many impostors in the room. Confidence has grown as each and every one of us has realized the value that he or she adds to the class and wider groups. People are no longer shy, and frank exchanges of ideas now occur with no ideas being dismissed out of hand.
Truly this diverse group of high achievers has found a way to operate beyond cultural bounds and accept all sorts of new ideas and inputs.
We are no longer impostors: we are INSEADers!