Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome by Rachel ToorI’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t suffer from some form or degree of imposter syndrome. For me, it started with an acceptance to a university my guidance counselor said I had zero chance of getting into. I spent four years there thinking that someone made a mistake by letting me in. Years later, when I worked in admissions at another elite university, I spent a lot of time trying to convince students that they deserved to be admitted. They’d say “Someone messed up by letting me in.” I’d say “You mean me? I didn’t mess up.” But I knew how they felt.

My whole life I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded with people who are at the top of their fields—historians, scientists, writers, artists, athletes, businesspeople—and here’s what I’ve learned:  very few think they deserve or can live up to their reputations. If an actor gets a hundred great reviews, she will focus on the one that has two lines that sting. When a poet receives an award, she will think of all the others who are better than she who didn’t win. Most of us, as it turns out, don’t feel worthy.

So here I am, writing for a company whose clothes I love, selected from a group of exceptional women, lucky to be featured in this blog, and my response is: Who messed up and let me in?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no cringing self-loather. I learned early to cover up my inadequacies with a compensatory and often off-putting bravado and have spent years faking my way into situations beyond my abilities and expertise. Usually this works, though it’s dog-heeled by the fear of being found out.  When we write in the first-person personal, we craft ourselves into a character; my “I” is a fictive kind of self, an invention rooted in the truth as I know it, presented to you in a way that I fashion. At times I err on the side of making this character seem more confident than I feel, and then strangers write to tell me how irritatingly arrogant I am.

Running creates opportunities for objective measures and for ways to compare ourselves with others. The clock can’t lie and it won’t protect my fragile psyche. My times tell me I’m not as fast as I once was, and in truth, I was never that fast, never an elite runner, never even an excellent one. I’ve done okay, but many of my friends are far more talented and disciplined than I. I have, however, been fortunate to be offered opportunities, often because I am willing to write about them: a five-day hundred mile stage race in the Himalayas, marathons in Thailand and Singapore and all over this country, some as part of a pace team leading other runners to PRs and Boston qualifiers. I’ve accompanied friends on the last forty miles of their 100 mile races and I’ve had friends who have pushed me to my own best times. I compete in a nutty sport called “ride and tie,” which combines trail running and endurance horseback riding.

Running has done so much for me. I was a cigarette-smoking, high heel-wearing, perpetually black-clad egghead until I turned thirty, left my husband, left Manhattan, moved to North Carolina, and eventually started dating a man who took my dog for runs. After a while I joined them because I didn’t like being left out. In the process of becoming a runner, I found a passion that keeps me fit and strong, a way to protect time to think during busy days, and a chance to spend hours on the trails chatting with friends and strangers. I love going to races not because I love to race, but because I love the community I find there.

I spent my fortieth birthday in the North Carolina mountains, alone in a hotel room I had planned to share with a man I had broken up with a few days before. I flooded myself with diet A&W root beer and carbo-loaded with Tootsie Rolls and Wheat Thins. The next day I ran a trail marathon and, to my surprise, won it. It was a nice way to enter my years as a “masters” runner, a strong start to middle age (except for the dumped boyfriend part). Since then I’ve moved west, gone to graduate school, published a couple more books, changed careers, landed a great academic teaching job, and am—so help me I’m really going to say this—happier than I’ve ever been.

Imposter Syndrome by Rachel ToorIn February I will turn fifty. I’m still drinking ungodly amounts of diet root beer, and Tootsie Rolls and Wheat Thins still form the base of my food pyramid. I’m still single, still going through boyfriends the way other women go through panty hose, still without children, and now without the possibility of bearing them. Sometimes I worry that I will never find the right partner; sometimes I wonder what I will be when I grow up. I’m a renter, a microwave cooker, someone who, until recently, owned no real furniture. I have another great dog, Helen, a sixteen-month-old mutt who reminds me that life is full of unexpected pleasures, though I don’t share her enthusiasm for eating horse poop and rolling in stinky dead things.

Instead of making singular New Year’s resolutions, for a long time my closest friends and I have been declaring what we want of the coming year, committing to an on-going project. Mine have met with more or less success. The Year of The Dollar was a spectacular failure. After I’d quit my job and was working on my second book, I vowed to earn more money. I didn’t make five figures that year. (Really.) The Year of Moisturizing, however, has continued and I’m sure I’d have even more wrinkles without it. The Year of Losing Electrons (trying to be more positive) was not as much fun as coming up with the geeky name.

Three years ago my mother died. My only resolution was to get out of bed each morning. Sometimes I succeeded. Eight months later, breaking a self-imposed dating moratorium—I knew people married inappropriately following the death of a parent—I embarked on what I think of now as The Year of The Bad Boyfriend. Grief can addle the brain, and, well, we all make mistakes. I try not to keep beating myself up for that one. Sometimes I succeed.

To my surprise, after years of turmoil, years of feeling inadequate—not good enough, not smart enough, not strong, pretty, fast, thin, muscular, tall, kind, generous, willing, funny, wealthy, clean, patient enough; my legs too bowed, my hair too frizzy, my teeth too crooked, my voice too loud, my brain too soft—I’m oddly content with who I am. There’s loads of room for improvement, but I’ve learned to accept that there are things I will never be good at (parallel parking, physics, twisting myself into a yoga pretzel) and have decided that’s okay. One of the gifts of maturity, especially for us neurotic overachievers, is that you realize you don’t have to be good at everything.

And so I’ve resolved that 2012 will be The Year of Being Me, But Better. I will continue to do the things I do, but with more effort, more finesse, more attention and care. I’ll work hard to be a better writer, teacher, friend, runner, dog-mother. I will continue to present myself in ways that are honest, self-deprecating when appropriate, and proud when worthy.

I will be motivated by the many awe-inspiring women I know, even when I don’t feel like I’m good enough to clean their running shoes.  But more, I will be motivated each time I hear a stranger tell me she’s run her first 5K, or is training for a marathon, or has lost weight by getting outside, or—and this is what truly impresses me—she manages to exercise even though she’s a mother. Working mothers who run should have an awards category all their own.

The fact is, anyone can run. But making it a priority, carving out the time, finding the discipline is something we all struggle with. Winters are particularly hard for me. When the sky is grey, my outlook clouds and I want to stay warm inside, snuggled with my fifty-pound lap dog and a good book. I don’t like to exercise; I like to run. But I don’t like to run if I don’t feel like it, even though I know I should and I know I will feel better afterward. When I have a hard time getting my butt out the door, I will remember all the women who never thought of themselves as runners but have found the courage to try. That’s what it takes: the courage to try, the determination to lace up the shoes.

During the year I will be writing for this blog, my greatest wish is to hear stories from the women who are reading it, women who are juggling and balancing and struggling and thriving, women who are brave enough to get out there and be active, women whose lives are far more complicated than mine but are still managing to stay active and fit, who are trying to be the best version of themselves.

You just ran your first 5K? You’re going to try to jog for a few minutes each day when you take the dog for a walk? You want to qualify for the Boston marathon? I want to hear about it.  And I’ll thank you for giving me the inspiration to keep going.


January 19, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Loved your first blog post Rachel! You are a really great writer. I think “the year of losing electrons” was an awesome name.


January 19, 2012 at 5:32 pm

Ok so you just made me cry a little. Turning 40 this year and suddenly having an urge to finish and/or start all these new and old hopes and dreams…. but thinking I was too old to consider it and that I would look or seem silly. Thanks for the boost. Great Blog!

Jessica McD

January 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm

Wow, this was a super timely post for me – I just landed what is essentially my dream job, and while I’m excited, I’m also filled with an anxiety that they made a mistake, that I can’t possibly do this, that I will fail. It was great to read about someone who struggled with Impostor Syndrome (which I also had in grad school, ugh) and turned it on its head!

I have Crohn’s Disease, and have struggled for the last 8 years to get healthy. Prior to being diagnosed in 2004, I was an athlete. Then I became extremely ill with Crohn’s complications, got placed on a unholy amount of steroids, and gained 70lbs in 3 months. I’ve been fighting to lose it ever since, and have lost about half (it’s been a long road with lots of periods of poor health – did I mention I just turned 30? My 20s were spent in a haze of hospitals and medications.) Last year was probably the worst ever – my doctors also think I have something else wrong with my immune system that makes me susceptible to infections, and from March 2010 to June 2011 I fought against a pervasive bone infection that quite literally nearly killed me on more than one occasion. I recovered from my final surgery and finally got the stupid PICC line out of my arm over the summer, and started running again in September.

I ran my first 5K in 8 years in December, and I’m signed up for another one in March, with the goal of improving my time. My ultimate goal is to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon in Las Vegas in December, because that particular race benefits the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. I think it would be a perfect way to tell my disease it can go where the sun doesn’t shine. 🙂

Thank you for such an inspirational, well-written post. I hope to see more from you!

Rachel Toor

January 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

Renee-Even better than the Year of Losing Electron’s was my friend Candace’s Year of the Whole Ass. She decided that she was tired of doing this half-assed. (Which she doesn’t.)

Melissa–Forty is nothing. I know people who started running in their sixties. You have a lot of work to do before you’re going to look silly. Go for it.

Jessica–Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about your struggles, but delighted to know about your 5K. Congratulations. Just getting out the door is an accomplishment, given all that you’ve been through. Please let me know about your how your running is going; I want to be able to send you good wishes for that half marathon in Vegas. It sounds like you have the strength to make it happen.


January 19, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Enjoyed your blog and look forward to many more. While I have grown, there are times the imposter syndrome sneaks in and takes over. My whole family runs. So I challenged myself. This year I ran my first 5k, cilmbed my first 14er. Oh, and I turned 50. Never thought I could do that at this age.

Jessica McD

January 19, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Rachel: Thank you! I’m hoping to start posting more about it on my blog, which chronicles the whole bone infection saga and what I did to get better (I played a game called SuperBetter, which is being launched commercially March 9, and my new job is for the company that makes it!) I’ll keep you posted – thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement! 😀


January 19, 2012 at 6:29 pm

Great timing on that article! I have signed up for a killer trailrace in my area of the country and my insecurities have started playing games with my mind and my training. They tell me that I don’t train hard enough, that I don’t suffer hard enough, that I am not fast enough or skinny enough or tough enough to share the air with “real” runners, let alone run a tough trailrace with them. Notice I don’t even pretend that I am racing AGAINST them. I know that I will likely be the slowest runner to cross the finish line and I am trying to be ok with that. I tell myself that showing up is half the battle and that success is defined by completing the course on my own power, but I am fighting some demons on this one. The race is sold out, so I feel guilty that I took a slot away from a more worthy runner who really deserves the opportunity….. Anyway, I have registered and committed to the race, so I will train the best I can and run my best race and try to feel proud of myself if I cross the finish line on my own 2 feet. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone and for inspiring me to give it my best. 🙂


January 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Your blog is great! Only been running for about 1 1/2 years. Maybe jogging instead of running, but running to me. Ran my first 5k Oct. 2010 and finally ran an 8k in September 2011. Now looking to do a 10k. Maybe a Frostbite 10k here in NC. Also looking into the Cooper River Bridge Run 10k in Charleston, SC. Looking to turn 40 soon and have a 3 year old. Full time job and just hate to run, but love the way I feel after. Your blog let’s me know it is great to just get out there and try. Most of my friends wouldn’t even try to run, yet I find myself feeling inadequate to those who do. I will keep trying no matter how many days I go with out running 2 or 3 miles. Sometimes, a week may go y without any, then I get out there and try again….and again…..and again.

Rachel Toor

January 19, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Oh no, Christin, you’ve got it wrong. If you’ve signed up for the race, and you pin that number on your shirt, you are as “real” a runner as anyone else, and as deserving of the spot. You can do well in a trail race without much speed. Strength–mental as much as physical–will get you a long way, so train your mind as well as your body. And don’t forget to enjoy your time on the trail. That’s why we do these things: because they’re fun.

The Blind Bride

January 19, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Yay! What I have has a name! At nearly 30, I have found that befriending women like you, a bit older and a lot wiser to keep reminding me that things don’t always go the way one expects and that is OK!

I just blogged about something similar…

Nicole Ross

January 19, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Hi Rachel – Quite enjoyed your blog, especially when it came to all the self-imposed “Year of”s that you embarked upon. I’m only 29, but already a recovering Type A control freak and goal-a-holic. After a quarter-life crisis took me by surprise, I, too set myself on a new course. I called it “The Year of Exploration” and appointed a Steering Committee of 5 friends to challenge me each month ( Often, TYOE was the only reason I bothered to get out of bed in the morning. More than two dozen challenges later, and two years old, I can honestly look back and say I’m a better person for the pain. Life’s funny like that. Kudos on your gumption – I applaud you!


January 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm

Here’s to pushing 50 and still: renting, boyfriends, no kids and running! Loved your post!


January 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

What an awesome testimony – thank you for sharing!! It took me until my 30s to realize my “inner athlete.” I was never considered athletic or competitive and avoided group sports for fear of disappointing the team or letting someone down because of my inadequacies. It took delivering three children (2 naturally) to figure out that I had a strength I did not know existed. Five months after having my third son, I realized I was out of shape and 4 sizes larger than my college self. I took a leap and signed up with a personal trainer, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. Unfortunately I cannot run much due to painful shin splints and previously broken toes, but I do make time for cardio and weight lifting 4-5 times per week. I am now more fit and muscular than I ever was in my 20s! I love that anyone can make a pivotal change at any point – there’s no limit! Thank you for encouraging all of us to keep going and to shake those doubts!! Congrats on your Athleta recognition!

Michele Eliason

January 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

As a full time ICU nurse and Thirty-One Executive Director…..all I can say is… So much of what you eloquently described resonated with me and my life. I have done accomplished much in my life and been so blessed by God, but to get to this point….it took a lot of heartache and unfulfilled dreams. But I am thankful to /god for entrusting me with so much : ) I used to listen to people’s stories and feel somewhat saddened for them when they spoke about the crazy circumstances that are just a normal day to day life they have become accustomed. But you know what…….I have seen that those days don’t last forever. That soon, those “circumstances” turn around into a life they only dreamed of. That all of the things I used to empathize with them are the very lessons that brought them to the place of greatness, peace and satisfaction. Most importantly, they become teachers, nonjudgemental friends that listen and phenomenal people who tell their beautiful story. Thank you for sharing your story.


January 19, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Pretty great article. You really hit many things on the head. I came to running late and overachieved myself into 2 knee surgeries and having to give up my favorite sport. I spent a lifetime mastering my Jack of All Master of Nothing role and woke up realizing that I was the only one who was judging me or what I did or how I did it. It never comes in a-ha moments. Its a slow burn. Like a long run when you think you’re spent and suddenly you’ve got it in you to go another mile, or two. Transferring that joy and connection into my life another way took time. Life and changes happen. I’m almost 50 and life is better than I thought. I train now but not as a runner, but for me and my body to feel amazing as I carry a 4 year old son people never thought I could have. When we stop thinking we have to create the value of an experience we actually get to feel it and live it and be present in it and our own lives. Nuff about me you are very genuine and inspiring to read and I hope you continue to blog away. Im here. Still icing knees but I’ll be reading. Thanks for sharing “you” for “us”.


January 19, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I will probably never be a runner. I ride my bicycle kind of a lot, since topping out at 197 lbs and not liking it. I am down 30 lbs and holding, and feel the same about getting out to ride as you do about running: sometimes I think I don’t want to make the effort, but when I get out there, I realize that I didn’t want to take the time to get ready, but I always enjoy the ride.


January 20, 2012 at 3:58 am

As one of the lucky people who calls you a friend, I think this is the most personal and spot on piece you have ever written. Thanks for inspiring us all!

Meaghan Murphy

January 20, 2012 at 5:39 am


Thanks! I loved your first post. 🙂 I look forward to reading more!


January 20, 2012 at 5:40 am

Wow, what a great post!

I started thinking about my life, whilst reading your post, and how I am single and have no children at the age of 44. I don’t miss any of it but am still determined to make my life into the way I want it. And even though I still haven’t accomplished my dreams, I now have a healthy regard for myself as I have been through lots of trials and tribulations in my life that have led me to that point.

To many more moons and please keep writing. You obviously have a great gift!


January 20, 2012 at 5:42 am

Rachel, I loved the whole blog post and can’t wait to read more! My story in a nutshell: I started running 11 months ago at age 49 and ran my first two 5Ks after I turned 50 (waiting is an advantage; it puts you in the next age bracket). I actually won my age division in my first 5K! Now I’m training for my first half in May. When I started I was so self-conscious about how I looked “running,” but I daily remind myself that, as the poster says, I’m lapping everybody on the couch. My times will never be impressive, but I don’t do this for the glory. After spending 26 years as a full-time, stay-at-home, homeschooling wife and mom to 5 children, I finally figured out that it was okay for me to do something just for me.

PS. I loved the “Year of the Electron.”

Mary K.

January 20, 2012 at 6:20 am

A back injury put me out of work for 6 months. After 3 years of PT I’m back to near normal. Started running again. It’s hard, real hard, to start from scratch again. My motivation? My 82 year old dad. He started running in his 70s!! His last 5k in November he was the oldest runner. Came in 250th out of 750 runners! I will run a 5k again and it will be with him. May 20, 2012.


January 20, 2012 at 6:29 am

Thank you for the honesty in your blog. Your struggles are mine, and probably most can identify in some way. The encouragement I find from that is unmeasurable. I am a wife, mother to 5, daughter, sister, part time RN, but essentially, the same as you. Certainly not superwoman. In fact, I am wondering how I will now fit in 2 runs this weekend, as I hit snooze too long this am, hiding from a dark 5 degree run, or the treadmill… But I will, because I too, love running. I discovered a severed ACL at 14, not requiring surgery- my body had compensated for the old, unknown injury. My MD advised me never to run, ski, or play tennis. I actually would dream about running! I craved that free feeling that I could only imagine would come. At 37, I decided enough was enough. My first run was for 20 seconds. That was it. Two years later, I ran (slow, but steady!) a half marathon. If I can do that- I believe anyone can. Now at 42, my sister and I have set a goal to run a full marathon. Running (and yoga) has helped me restore that acceptance of myself, imperfect as I am, faith that I am capable of accomplishing most anything that I really try, and pure joy that my body and mind can actually do these things I love! I ski, slow and easy- watching my children fly past me! My 4 year old will soon be better than me… Tennis will come later in life, I hope… That free feeling reminds me of who I really am- and hearing stories like yours encourages me to keep on getting up on these cold, dark mornings to find it! Thank you


January 20, 2012 at 7:11 am

thanks for the encouragement rachel! I appreciate it. want to come out to washington and run some great trails? 🙂


January 20, 2012 at 7:11 am

Rachel – what an incredible piece! You are an inspiration – your writing really spoke to me personally.
This week marked the one year mark that I set out to become healthy and “learn” how to run – although I had never been athletic nor ran in my life. I am 42. Here is what I need to remember when the # on the scale doesn’t make me smile: One year ago this week, I set out to “get healthy” – not really knowing what that would mean. Putting one foot in front of the other, I started walking and revising my diet. In time, I was able to run a slow mile for the very first time in my life. I joined the gym, signed up to work with a trainer, made new, healthy and very supportive friends. I stopped smoking (GASP!), started running longer and faster, and along the way lost 35 pounds. I ran FOUR 5K races, each one improving. There are so many people who have helped me – the trainer turned good friend, the much younger training partner, the friends turned cheerleaders, the BFF marathon runner who joined me for my first race, the husband turned running buddy, and the 5 a.m. trainers who love the early mornings as much as I do. As I look into 2012, I realize that I have exceeded my first goal: I am healthier than I was not only last year – but healthier and more fit than I have ever been in my entire life! I will run more races this year – longer and more challenging. So when I become discouraged – all I have to do is reflect on how I feel when my children (ages 4 and 17) ask if they can go on my runs with me or come to the gym on a Saturday morning. Goal met: I’m a healthier and happier mom, wife and friend. I’m training for my first 10K. And while I may not ever run a marathon or ultra (I don’t have much desire to go that route) – I can’t help but feel excited about where I am. Your article really hit home for me. I have a horse of my own and am going to research this “ride and tie”!!!! Thank you for all that you are and I look forward to following you here –


January 20, 2012 at 7:12 am

Thank you for reminding us that we aren’t the only ones seeing imperfections in our lives. Some days it feels like we are a jack of all trades, master of none. Other days, only one thing is going the way it should. I’m not sure what this year’s goal(s) will be but I am sure it will be an adventure no matter what!


January 20, 2012 at 7:47 am

So, I sit down this morning to check emails, and the link to this is in my box. I have NEVER been a runner, but am on my sixth day of a couch-to-10K running program. Really wasn’t feeling it this morning as there are all sorts of things to do to get out of town this weekend, but after reading this I am lacing up my shoes. Your a fine writer. Thanks for some inspiration this morning.!

Rachel Toor

January 20, 2012 at 7:47 am

I am awed by these stories–you guys have made me laugh, cry, and gape in wonder about how you manage to juggle it all. Does Athleta skew toward amazing women? Clearly the answer is yes.

So glad to hear from you all, and so glad especially to hear from so many new runners, and so many women who understand that life actually gets better as you age. Hard as it may be to believe, it really does.

We have a zillion inches of snow in Spokane, it’s cold and icky out, but you’ve given me the boost to get out and run today. Thank you for that, peeps.


January 20, 2012 at 8:01 am

Hi Rachel – I followed Sage Rountree’s link from FaceBook and couldn’t believe when I recognised you in your picture.

I knew you many years ago (20?) when I was an intern in the office in North Carolina where you used to work. Our paths rarely crossed but I remember being amazed and deeply impressed by you – by what you did at work but even more so when I found out about your running and your running with your horse. I was somewhat overweight, smoked, was completely unathletic and did not not begin to think that someone like me could do anything – professionally and athletically – as amazing as the stuff you (beautiful, thin, strong and fiercely intelligent) were doing. 10 years later, stuck in the English countryside without a job with 2 tiny children and very overweight, I started to run very slowly – I knew something had to change physically and mentally if I were ever to begin to like myself again. Every time I thought “this is not for someone like me” I forced the thought back down again and struggled on. Nearly 10 years on from that time, I have run 8 marathons and I’ve recently qualified as a personal trainer. Running has made me realise that I can do more than I ever thought, that I am so much more than I had thought I was, and that I can achieve things if I set my mind to it. I still doubt myself, I still feel like an impostor a great deal of the time. But as I head into my forties, I know that all it takes for me is to go out for a run to remember that I am worthwhile and able. And lucky.
Thank you for being one of the many small sparks that eventually led me down this road. X Petra

Terri Monturano

January 20, 2012 at 8:04 am

What a fantastic start! I found myself smiling, nodding, and agreeing wholeheartedly with your points. I’m always waiting for someone to discover that I’m just a fraud – and thought it was just me! I’ll be 45 this year and you’ve offered me renewed inspiration to just continue to be a better me and not worry about what the rest of them have to say! Looking forward to your blog this year!


January 20, 2012 at 8:37 am

Good heavens! I just looked back at my post. “your a fine writer” obviously I’m not, “you’re a fine writer.” Thanks again for the inspiration.


January 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

Thanks so much for sharing, and for your honesty. I often feel the same way – working hard, but just because I’m not as fast as someone else or I don’t run as far or as frequently as others, I downplay my effort and accomplishment. Thanks for encouraging us all to be ourselves, and be proud of the work we put in and of all our accomplishments, large and small.


January 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

Rachel, great article. Empowering, insightful and putting me at ease that I’m not the only one. I’m a late bloomer to running. I started in the Fall of 2009 at 46 just to get healthier. Changing diet and walking more was the first game plan. After dropping a dress size and hitting a plateau running had to be attempted and amazingly I really like it! Motivating people to get healthier is now one of my many goals, but many times feel I’ve missed the boat because of my age. I’d like to become a Personal Trainer, Nutritionist but feel age is a huge factor and not sure where to get the education. Even starting a local business geared toward health would be awesome!

Keep up the great work and I look forward to future articles.

Lisa Flynn

January 20, 2012 at 10:39 am

Beautiful, heartfelt, HONEST post. I recognize so much of what you speak about. I’m a FAKE, is what I’ve said to myself so often in the past. Like you, I’m also 40, was once a hot shot ad exec in Chicago and never felt I fit in. When I had children, I found a new role – and again, felt to some extent like I was role-playing. Now, as the founder of two growing companies focused on yoga and mindfulness education for children, I still question whether I ‘deserve’ to be successful, and find myself (not as much as I used to, but…) in fear of being ‘found out’ not to know as much as I appear to know.

Part of what yoga teaches us is ‘non-judgement’. I’ve come a long way in giving up judgement of others and it has been liberating, so why the need to hang on to the self-doubt? As you can see in all the comments to your home-hitting post, it’s no an uncommon theme, especially for women. Your post and the support rec’d here will go a long way to reminding us that we are WHOLE, UNIQUE, DESERVING and AUTHENTIC beings and can be that no matter what situation or life circumstance we find ourselves in.

Thank you for your inspiring post – looking forward to hearing more from you! And CONGRATS as well!

Lisa Flynn


January 20, 2012 at 11:49 am

This is so beautifully written. Kudos, Rachel, for saying out loud what so many of us feel. I got a lot from your post and will share it. In one of my roles, I help inspire women to be their best selves, so if it’s okay with you, I’ll be sharing your blog post with everyone at Jill B. Nimble and Nimble Training. Also, in another of my roles, I teach a college class in human relations – when it comes to the chapter on motivation, I discuss the imposter phenomenon and will be sure to include this as required reading. Thanks for helping me keep this topic fresh and interesting.

I look forward to reading more from you in the coming year.


January 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I didn’t know that you were in spokane! I live in selah (near yakima). The race that I am doing this spring is a 25k trailrun along the umtanum ridge along the yakima river. I think that they still have slots for the 50k race if you are looking for a beautiful early season race….. 😉 Thanks again for your motivating words.

Jody - Fit at 54

January 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

It is all about the getting up after we fall down & there are no failures if we learn from them…. amazing story & look forward to more!


January 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm

My daughter who is a runner sent me a link to your blog. I am not a runner, but a 63 year old walker, kayaker, tennis player, skier and cyclist. She is a runner ( 2 marathons and several 1/2 marathons) and so much of what you wrote applies to her. Thank you for expressing it all so beautifully. I know this will inspire her and keep her going on the rough days.


January 21, 2012 at 6:47 am

Nice to know I’m not alone! Thank you!
I’m a teacher in a low socioeconomic urban area, and every day worry that I am good enough for parents to trust the education of their children with… regardless of the positive results and compliments…current public opinion of “the public school teacher” doesn’t help, either… I do Ironman triathlons to “keep me sane” and every time at the start think I have no business being there, although I have completed 3 and continue to improve… and after 3 degrees in higher education, I still feel the need to go back to school…
Is the “Imposter Syndrome” what drives us to be better? I’m 42, single, no kids, working my butt off for a dwindling paycheck … and slowly allowing myself to acknowledge anything resembling an accomplishment.
Thank you for this! Don’t get me wrong, I am the first person to point out silver linings in any situation, and constantly focus on a positive outlook, but always think “I can do better”! Today I am able to remind myself that I’m doing a pretty good job…. as are you all! I am humbled by your stories and applaud your efforts! Here’s to GIRL POWER!

Tonya Roe

January 21, 2012 at 8:05 am

Great piece! I always know I’m in for a treat when I see Rachel’s name as the byline. I’m excited to see more of her writing here.

Dee Dee

January 21, 2012 at 11:57 am

What a wonderful post! I started to read it when it first was sent out via email and realized that I really just wanted to curl up with it without any other distractions.

I bet most honest people have, at times, felt like impostors (I know I have), but the real success is in not listening to that inner dialogue and instead hearing ourselves say ‘we can’.

I’m a ‘normal’ triathlete in many ways and definitely don’t look like a typical anything, but sometimes it’s about heart, I guess, not just running pants size. 🙂

I can’t wait to read your next post!


January 22, 2012 at 11:20 am

Have read you in other venues, happy to see you here. I first heard of the Impostor Syndrome in the 90s, and thought “it’s not just me?!” I’m happy that I’m not alone, and sad as well. May we all become the best version of ourselves, celebrate who we are and what we can do, and celebrate the same in others. Welcome!

Asa Maria Bradley

January 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm

You had me at “Imposter Syndrome.” Awesome blog post. You inspire me on so many levels.


January 23, 2012 at 9:36 am

Your first shot at this shows they picked the right one for the job. Your post struck a cord and it shows buy the overwhelming support and comments. If anything it shows that you are not alone in your struggle. Athleta is a great safe place. Not to many places on the internet flow with support from all who gather there. I admire you ladies and wish you all the best.


January 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Thanks for this post! Very inspiring for me to read about women who are constantly working on self-improvement. I’m a 22 year old grad student in London, trying to make her way back home to the Pacific NW, but still attempting to make the most out of my time over here: I’m training for my first marathon! Running keeps me grounded and I’ve found it to be a great constant in my life, which has included lots of change and experiences of “Imposter syndrome” over the past few years. One of my favorite things about running is the supportive community of awesome women that accompany it!

Looking forward to your next post 🙂

Sonja Calabrese

January 25, 2012 at 7:02 am

I loved reading this! My goal for 2012 is to run a half marathon…..I have NEVER run even one mile. I am first training for a 5k, then a 10k and hope to run the half by the end of the summer. Everyone asks me “why running….you hate to run”. Well, I am a work from home, mother of 3 and just lost 35 pounds. I am so proud to say that I did it all on my own….no gym membership, no personal trainers, no fancy diets. So I thought since running was free it would be a good way to attain a concrete goal. I’m currently up to 2.5 miles 3 times a week and will be running my first 5k at the end of the month. I still don’t love running, in fact I joke that my favorite part of running are the cute outfits 🙂 and now I love reading about other runners and feeling like part of a community. Thanks so much!

Rachel Toor

January 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm

It has been so inspiring to me to read these comments. One of the things I love about running–about doing anything hard, really–is that it often provokes people to want to tell their stories. For me, running and writing have always been connected. Please keep your tales coming. We all benefit from hearing them.


January 26, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Good for you Rachel— congrats !!!!! You may be hearing from me– I am the girl who begins each year with a big list of goals to tackles each year. This year I pared it down b/c I wanted “Substance over quantity”. I wonder if I will be able to tackle anything— my mother-in-law begins chemo on Monday and I with my husband are the only family involved. The 50 pounds I want to lose will be a real challenge—-how many healthy snacks can I really tote around???? Will I remember to drink water and not so much coffee and wine (Chili’s rest. is next door to the hospital–I am well acquainted with their all-day 2-fers) ??? Can I power walk thru the parking lot of the hospital while she is in treatment ??
I like your idea of declaring what I want from the coming year— I want optimum health–physical and mental health. I will treat myself to a larger Coach bag to hold at least two portions of veggies and a trashy novel.

Jannine Myers

January 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I agree with everyone else Rachel – great post! And I also agree that finding the time, the courage, and the discipline, to run each day, or do something athletic, is not always easy. I am fortunate to belong to a women’s trail running group; our group is made up of runners of all different shapes and sizes, and also of runners who are at vastly different levels of fitness, and yet it never ceases to amaze me how eaually determined we all are to get out and run together, despite our often busy and chaotic lifestyles. Thank you for acknowledging the efforts of all the females out there who work so hard to take care of themselves while also struggling to manage the many other areas of their lives.


February 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm

I loved this article. It really captured exactly what I felt once I found out I had been chosen as an Athleta Athlete: “I’m not good enough, I need to work harder, I’m a poser”…especially after reading all the Bio’s of the amazing women I’m keeping company with, which inspire me to keep on being the best I can be!


June 03, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Thanks, Rachel, for writing this blog. I am a fan of your writing but only just recently read this blog. I actually just sat down and read all of the blogs you have written for Athleta Chi. I have been recently suffering from the “imposter syndrome” as well as the “falling and failing” .
Recently, my work place had been making cut backs and having layoffs and unfortunately I was a part of it all. I should have seen it coming but I was in denial and didn’t think it would happen to me. My work is not just something I do, it is a part of my identity. But I do like to think I have a balanced life outside of work that includes running and triathlon.
Friends tried to advise me to take a little time to relax, which can be hard for me to do. I am a little Type A. I had signed up to attempt my first ironman triathlon last year which was scheduled to take place just 6 weeks after losing my job. I doubted as to whether I should travel and spend money to attempt the triathlon. But it has been a goal of mine and I had already invested time and a money into it. Plus, I now had more time to train.
In the meantime, I started interviewing for a new job. I felt like I had failed at my last job, because for some reason I was chosen to be one of the “cutbacks”. Therefore, I lacked confidence in my interviews feeling like an imposter and wondering why they would want to hire me.
I was advised to put the interviewing on hold until after the Ironmen event. My other half said by completing the Ironman, it would give me the boost of confidence I needed. I took his advice and tried not to think about how I would feel if I was not able to complete the Ironman.
I am happy to say he was right. It was the hardest thing I have done but I am now able to say that I am an Ironman. I returned home with renewed confidence in myself and started interviewing again. I have been getting positive feedback and callbacks and more callbacks.
To sum up my long comment, we all at times fall and feel we have failed. We can even feel like an imposter in this world just waiting to be exposed. But now I am even a bigger believer in how exercise and sport can renew our confidence and faith in ourselves.
Thank you, Rachel, for so eloquently putting into words your thoughts, feelings, and experiences that many of us can relate too even though we may not have had the exact same experiences.
Now I just need to figure out what to name this year for myself and how fit in “Ironman” on my resume.

Leave a Reply