Even Superheroes Have Imposter Syndrome

by | Jun 24, 2021 | Mindset

This weekend, I was out on my long run and ran out of podcasts on my playlist, which gave me a lot of thinking time. And the one thought I kept circling back to was, “Why am I not super excited or proud about running 100K last month?” Because while sure, it wasn’t a smoking fast time, and it wasn’t a record-breaking run, it was still a solid run, my longest distance by nearly 2x, and by pretty much any standards, an Achievement.

But here’s the thing. I am surrounded by women (and men) who regularly are doing amazing things on the run and on the bike. I also interview a lot of them for work. So, all day everyday, in work and leisure, I’m surrounded by high-achieving athletes.

And all that leads to a massive Imposter Syndrome complex when it comes to who I am as an athlete.

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Ever the superhero nerd, my mind started wandering… I know that you read about celebrities and professional athletes dealing with imposter syndrome, but is anyone safe from it? Nope. Even Superman gets the blues. In fact, I’ve realized—and you can likely skip this paragraph if you’re not a comic book nerd—that my favorite superhero, the one I have a massive action figure collection of, is actually the perfect posterchild for Imposter Syndrome. Booster Gold, a lesser-known member of the Justice League, is a superhero who is 100% faking it. Sort of. His backstory: He’s from the year 3000, was a janitor at a superhero museum, and decided he wanted to be rich and famous, so he stole a costume and used a time machine to go back to the 1980s, where he’s now part of the Justice League. But he knows that he’s a janitor who stole a costume.

Now, that doesn’t stop him from helping to save the world… but it does mean that when he compares himself to Superman or Wonder Woman, he comes up short.

But again, he helps save the world. When you put him up against Superman, sure, he’s not doing as much. But when he’s the star of his own comic books, he’s doing amazing things.

There is a very good chance that I love this character not just because he’s hilarious (he is) but because I understand how he’s feeling. I often feel like I’m surrounded by superheroes–the people I train with regularly who constantly do huge miles and amazing runs and rides and the people I interview, who are quite literally world class at their sport. No wonder my 100k trail run feels small in comparison.

I think a lot of us are surrounded by a Justice League of fellow athletes, whether they’re IRL friends or the people we follow on Instagram, and that makes us feel like our own exploits aren’t worthy of their own comic book series.

But when you separate your story, laid it out in its own panels, with your own heroic backstory and journey, suddenly, it’s pretty damn impressive.

I’ve been trying to remind myself of that lately—and also remind myself that it’s pretty damn cool to be surrounded by a pantheon of other badass athletes achieving great things. A friend running 105 kilometers the day I ran 100 doesn’t take anything away from the fact that I ran 100. It just means that I have people in my life who are also capable of doing incredible things, and I should be thrilled that I have those people in my life!


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