July 29, 2019
Retirement and The Imposter Syndrome
Throughout my career I suffered from something that actually has a name: imposter syndrome. This exists when you worry that someone will discover that you aren't qualified for what you are doing. Sort of the like the dream where you are naked in a public setting, the imposter syndrome exposes you as a fraud in a very public way.
In my case, I made a nice living telling other people what to do with their radio stations: which announcers to hire and fire, what music to play, how to promote the station...all the bits and pieces that would translate into economic success. My actual on-the-air experience was limited to smaller cities or those in the suburbs of large metropolitan areas, so much of what I was suggesting others came from watching successful stations and picked the best ideas from them to apply to others. At that time in the broadcasting industry, what worked in one place would usually work in another.
I had the career-long feeling that someone would ask me why I suggested what I did, what experience I had in that area, and why they should listen to me and pay me for my opinions. Someone was just waiting to point out the emperor had no clothes.
Happily, I remained fully dressed and never had my fears exposed. But, the feeling of being under-qualified for what I was doing never left.
In retirement, is it likely that some of that same imposter syndrome exists for many of us? Why do we get to stop working when millions of our fellow citizens can't? How can my investments actually last as long as I will? What will the next financial mess do to my life? What if I finally run out of things to keep me busy..then what? I really don't deserve all this.
The imposter syndrome reminds me of the post from last month:The Worst Thing That Could Happen...rarely does. We imagine things going wrong, though in this case, it is because we don't deserve what we have. Somehow we have cheated, or gamed the system, to enjoy a life that shouldn't really be ours. At some point, people we know will figure out how we achieved a satisfying retirement: we cut corners, or something.
Now that I write these words, it strikes me how far fetched the imposter syndrome for retirement sounds. How could anyone "sneak" into this life. After all, the experience we accumulate from very early on eventually becomes who we are. The retirement stage is when we get to apply a lifetime's worth of "training" in a way that mostly satisfies us. If the way we envisioned ourselves living isn't how things actually turned out, then welcome to the club.
Life is about adjustments and accommodations. Retirement is no different. We aren't working at what allowed us to retire because of a lifetime of choices and decisions. There is no reason to feel like an imposter. We are exactly where we should be based on everything that has happened to us so far.
So, relax and enjoy. If you still dream you will be caught undressed in a public setting, I can't help you with that one. But being a retirement imposter? I don't think it is a real thing.