Big bother is watching you

The Trader: 'I think I might be coming down with Imposter Syndrome'
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The Independent Online

The phone rings for only the second time today, but it's Jane rather than a client. "Can you talk?" she asks, and I make noises to suggest I'm not only able but willing. I am, after all, suffering the after-effects of a bank holiday weekend - no, not a hangover, but the fact that all our clients have decided that, if they can have Monday off, they might as well take the rest of the week, too.

The phone rings for only the second time today, but it's Jane rather than a client. "Can you talk?" she asks, and I make noises to suggest I'm not only able but willing. I am, after all, suffering the after-effects of a bank holiday weekend - no, not a hangover, but the fact that all our clients have decided that, if they can have Monday off, they might as well take the rest of the week, too.

"Have you seen Tom yet?" I ask, because I know Jane has been beside herself with excitement at the thought of their reunion.

"No, not yet," she says. "He wants to get over his jetlag first, and clean the last traces of his tenants out of the flat. So we're having lunch on Saturday. If only things were busier at work; then there wouldn't be time to worry. Still, it doesn't sound any better over with you."

I give a quiet, yet unmistakably hollow, laugh. "Better?" I say, sardonically. "Oh no, it's definitely not better. In fact, I'd go so far as to say things are very, very much worse." Jane gasps. "Oh, my God," she says. "Don't tell me the management consultants have started already?"

"Ten out of 10," I reply. "They arrived at eight yesterday morning, and they've been hanging around with clipboards ever since. You can't go to the loo without one of them scribbling a note about it. Still, I must admit they've come up with one good idea. I thought it was a bit odd of them to start just after a bank holiday. But if they charge by the week, they only have to work four days for the same money. How's that for time and motion studies?"

I pause, and drop my voice to a whisper. "There's something else. I can't tell you now; meet me after work." Four hours later, Jane and I are in a bar. "I had to talk to someone," I say. "Promise you won't laugh, but - I think I'm coming down with Impostor Syndrome." Jane doesn't look as if she's about to laugh, so I carry on. "It's so stupid. I know the management consultants don't know half what I know, but when they're watching me I feel I don't know half what I know, either. And then I start to worry that perhaps I don't even know that. Do you think maybe I'm not really me and that I've been replaced with an android by some evil financier?"

"Hmm," Jane says. "What I think is that most people find it weird being watched by a bunch of complete strangers. You're self-conscious, but you have to get over it. They're doing their job, and you do yours. Don't make such a big deal of it."

Jane sits back. But something suggests she's not quite at ease. I follow her gaze, to where it lands on a middle-aged man who is looking just as intently back at us.

"Urgh," Jane says in disgust. "That horrible man. Why is he staring at us like that?" I say "He's probably thinking, 'I wonder how she got a job in the City'." Jane goes pale. "He can't tell ..." she says anxiously; then the penny drops. "Oh, very funny," she says. "Impostor Syndrome," I say. "You really should take it more seriously. It's clearly contagious."

* thetrader@hotmail.com

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