Imposter Syndrome

by Patrick McNerthney

Every so often I’m accused of thinking I’m more capable than I actually am. For example, when the hunky fitness instructor my wife follows started an online cycling program, I figured I could not only participate in the class, but likely demonstrate that I am the fittest–a de facto class valedictorian of athleticism. In fact, my thought process went something like “…Cycling is easy, anyone can do that. And this chiseled guy probably hates puppies and sunny days. I’ll show him!”

I was wrong, got pummeled as a result, and was offered loads of encouragement from the instructor since my struggle was so apparent. Which was actually nice. Who knew riding a stationary bike could be so hard?

(In my mind I looked like this.)

Arrogance is an unpleasant trait. I don’t consider myself arrogant, mostly because I associate it with being overbearing and having a superiority complex. I’m reading a book by author Adam Grant on how people think, and in this book he defined arrogance in a less disagreeable fashion, as in “…when confidence exceeds ability.” 

And that stopped me in my tracks. That was me on the bike!

Arrogance actually demonstrates what we don’t know about ourselves. Overconfidence leaves us blind to our weaknesses (everyone has weaknesses), so we lose sight of the things we need to improve upon. This leaves us with the misplaced notion that we’ve got everything all figured out, which can lead to disaster.  

(Adam Grant says arrogance is common behind the wheel.)

(We’re worse at this than we think!)

Compare this to being doubtful – thinking we’re not good enough or smart enough to (insert something that’s both difficult and important to you here). Recently the term “imposter syndrome” has been used by business authors to describe doubt. It’s the voice in our heads saying, “I know very little, I shouldn’t be in charge of this!” 

Imposter syndrome is the opposite of arrogance and can be defined as “…when ability exceeds confidence.” (Thank you again Adam Grant.)  

(He also says imposter syndrome is common when giving speeches.)

So between the two, it turns out we benefit most from experiencing imposter syndrome because this inherently involves humility, which is the admission that we know there’s tons of stuff we don’t know

Here’s the trick: If we’re confident enough to be comfortable with that, we’re inspired to learn, regardless of our station in life. 


Being a life-long learner is the key to helping create the change we seek to make. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught all of us the importance of being able to pivot and adapt – in other words, to learn how to think in new ways and fill in our knowledge gaps in order to keep our promises to those we seek to serve. If we just sat back and thought we knew everything in the face of crisis and refused to learn, we’d get stuck, and what’s worse, we’d drag those we’re supposed to be helping into the mire with us.

Fine Art Miracles champions creative expression as a tool to reframe how we see the constraints social isolation places on the elderly, children with challenges and other vulnerable populations. As a caregiver, you may not know much about Fine Art, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance & Movement Therapy or the benefits of Coloring Pages – but you undoubtedly have the capacity to learn! All it takes is the willingness to go first.   

Please reach out if you’d like to hear how our programs provide your residents with feelings of self-worth, a connection to the past, self-mastery, stress relief and that great feeling of accomplishment,that comes from seeing value in their actions and contributions. Fine Art Miracles is happy to help. They aim to provide an opportunity for you to feel better too–confident in your ability to care for those who need your help. 

As for me, I haven’t given up on that stationary bike – I work out on it every week. I just realized I had to start in the beginner class.




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