Today I want to talk about a very important subject: the “imposter syndrome.”
I think many of us have heard about this term, but what does it mean and does it apply to translators?
Let’s start with the meaning. According to the VeryWellMind page, “impostor syndrome” (IS) refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. It is the experience of feeling like a fraud, like you don’t belong where you are. It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.
Now, does this apply to translators, and how?
Well, opinions vary. Some experts say it does, and others even say that in the context of translation it doesn’t apply.
The truth is that a lot of translators think they are suffering from “imposter syndrome”, me included. We feel like our translations aren’t as good as they could be. And we know that we still lack knowledge in certain specialized fields. Yet, we are getting praised and getting repeat work from clients.
So there’s a disconnect between our own subjective experience and our external evaluation.
But some experts say that “imposter syndrome” isn’t a real thing, at least in the context of freelance translation. The phenomenon was originally posited in 1978 to describe the emotions experienced by successful women operating in male-dominated spheres, which is a completely different thing from what we think it refers to.
Could it just be a simple reflection of the tolerance of society at large of average, mediocre levels of ability and performance?
I think the feeling of not being good enough does exist in any industry, and freelance translation is not an exception. What matters is how to change our mentality from thinking that we have a problem that we need to fix, when it could be an external problem that we have no control of.
Whichever you think is the right approach to “imposter syndrome”, don’t let it control your career and your life. You are good enough, otherwise, you wouldn’t be getting repeated work and praise from clients.
Let me know in the comments what do you think about this phenomenon and whether or not is affecting you.
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