Do You Suffer from Multipotentialite Imposter Syndrome?
Image courtesy of Henry Hemming.

Do You Suffer from Multipotentialite Imposter Syndrome?

Written by Emilie

Topics: Confidence

Imposter syndrome: a belief that deep down, you are a fraud, that you shouldn’t be here, and that one day everyone will wake up and realize it.

Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon that most multipods know well. It’s easy to doubt your ability when you feel different from your peers, and it’s easy to feel different when have an unconventional, all-over-the-place history.

We’ve discussed imposter syndrome before, but today I want to talk about a different kind of imposter syndrome…

Multipotentialite imposter syndrome: a belief that deep down, you aren’t actually a multipotentialite. Sure, multipotentialites exist and they’re awesome, but you couldn’t possibly be one. Not you; you’re just flaky.

People experience multipotentialite imposter syndrome for all sorts of reasons. They might feel like they don’t go deep enough into their interests, they might be heavily involved in just one thing at the moment, perhaps they haven’t been able to make the multipod life work financially, or maybe they just feel bad about themselves in general.

Multipotentialite Imposter Syndrome in Our Community

This issue came up recently in the Puttytribe. Last month, two or three new members started discussions in the forum to the tune of: “Do I really belong here among you impressive folks? Here’s why I don’t think I do…”

Of course, our community quickly jumped in with reassuring words and shared just how similar their experiences have been (our puttypeep rock, so this didn’t surprise me at all). But as the one who popularized the term multipotentialite and literally wrote its definition, I wanted to address this issue on the blog.

Should you be nervous about adopting the term multipotentialite? Is there some kind of bar you need to meet to qualify?

The short answer is NO! Here’s why:

1. To be a multipotentialite you only need to be curious.

Unlike polymaths, multipotentialites aren’t necessarily masters of many fields, we’re passionate about many fields. And sometimes, in some areas, that passion evolves into expertise. Other times our interest is more fleeting, and that’s okay, too.

We usually do reach “expert status” in a number of domains as we grow (sometimes in domains we create ourselves) and we may eventually develop into someone who can claim polymathic status. But it isn’t our skill level that determines whether or not we’re a multipod, it’s our curiosity.

2. There are many ways to multipotentialite.

Multipotentialites exist on a spectrum:

It doesn’t matter whether you explore your interests concurrently or whether you dive into one interest for a number of years before switching to the next (or are somewhere in between). All methods of being a multipod are equally valid.

3. YOU decide if you’re a multipotentialite.

In the queer world (one of the places where I hang out), self-identification is a big thing. You decide if you’re L,G,B,T,Q, or something else. You decide what gender pronoun you use. And other people should respect the identity you’ve chosen for yourself.

I view “multipotentialite” in a similar light. The word takes a way of moving through the world that has been stigmatized and flips it on its head. To adopt the identity of multipotentialite is to reclaim your plurality and to be proud of it.

There isn’t a standard that someone has to live up to to qualify as a multipotentialite and no one can tell you that you aren’t one. If you say you’re a multipotentialite, you’re a multipotentialite.

(And of course, if you prefer to identify as a scanner, Renaissance soul, multi-passionate, etc. that’s totally fine, too. Use whichever term feels right, invent your own term, or use no term at all.)

Don’t worry about whether you measure up. Just get involved and see if it helps.

In my experience, if you’re wondering whether you’re a multipotentialite, you probably are one. Most non-multipods hear about the concept and think something along the lines of Huh? That’s a Thing?

But for the sake of argument, let’s say you AREN’T a multipod. So what? If you’re drawn to this blog or community, go with it. Take what resonates, process it through that fabulous brain of yours, and see what comes out the other side. You’re welcome here.

Your Turn

What would you say to someone who’s experiencing multipotentialite imposter syndrome?

Want some support from as you build a life around your many passions? The Puttytribe doors are open today July 6, for 24 hours only. Your fellow puttypeep and I will see you in there!

Emilie Wapnick is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike, where she helps multipotentialites build lives and careers around ALL their interests. Unable to settle on one path herself, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University. She is the author of How to Be Everything: A Guide for Those Who (Still) Don’t Know What They Want to Be When They Grow Up. Learn more about Emilie here.

20 Comments

  1. Sofie says:

    Thanks Emilie for sharing your thoughts! Imposter is my middle name, so I feel very much “seen” by your post. xx

  2. Julian Hebbrecht says:

    It’s only recently that I got familiar with the term multipotentialite. Before, I felt like a child in a toy shop with an unending stream of things to try out and enjoy. Even at 74 now, I am full of curiosity and constantly trying out new things. Strangely enough, this “multipotentiality” characteristic, this childlike quality of trying out and enjoying new things, has kept me physically and most of all, mentally young. When I talk with people on the phone, most people think I am only in my 40s, 50s or at the most in my 60s and are very surprised when they hear my real age.
    The reality is that I have lost every feeling of age. I still feel like I’m only in my forties and recently married a woman of 34 years old. We also have a baby now and I am now a young father. Very interesting. You are only as old as you feel, is very true for me and I hope people who read this will take this to heart. My plan is to live till 110 so I will be able to attend my son’s wedding.

    • Emilie says:

      Wow! That’s so inspiring, Julian. Congratulations! And thanks for sharing. :)

    • Barb says:

      I also am an older multipotentialite. My curiosity about everything takes me to all kinds of interesting and amazing places. People never believe I am 60. They always say I look much younger. I think the insatiable curiosity of multipotentialites keeps us young.

  3. Aarti says:

    Hi Emilie! I’m from India. I’ve been following your website for a few months after I saw your Talk. Through you, I’m pretty sure that “multipotentiality” is catching on pretty fast. When I first saw your talk, I thought “yeah, I think I could be one, after all, I want to learn so many things!” I started being more conscious about my interests and got some confidence that even though I haven’t begun my journey with a lot of things, it was always there somewhere as a mental wish, and it’s not too late to explore more and more.

    But once in a while, I would come across cool people near me, who probably wouldn’t know that such a term exists, yet they are so good at what they do. I would get dejected once in a while. I procrastinate way too much! I need help with that. Anyway, today I realized that there’s no need to compare myself with anyone else. I can learn things at my own pace. Two years back I started a sketchbook for my doodles, now I think I’m going to learn how to make a website from scratch, apart from trying to get a job in the environmental sector. Plus all those tiny things I want to do that may at the most end up being my little inside joke and make me smile. :)

    What I wanted to say is that I knew all it takes is being curious about a lot of things, but a little recap of this amazing message helps a lot to get back on track and maintain good spirit!

    PS: I know you have a post somewhere on managing time, could you do a post for heavy procrastinators as well? Now that I’m feeling so positive, I don’t want to start procrastinating too soon.

  4. GawkFace says:

    That’s pretty reassuring
    Whether its a Forer effect thing or not, to call yourself multipotentialite that is, is upto us. It’s not like we want to be famous for being one, we just want to try to name one of our traits / bevaviours / thought processes

  5. Suze says:

    Hi all,
    I want to thank you for this blog, and for your inspiring Ted talk. I have 59 years on this earth and it isn’t until just recently that I have discovered that I am a multipod. I always knew I was wired differently than most others, but it is so comforting to know that I am not alone. I do suffer from imposter syndrome and have always thought that there must have been some clerical error when I was accepted into a university program, or chosen for a particular job and think that one day someone will find out. My thought process is always, ‘if I get it so do a million other people, what makes me think I’m special’.

    I have always been labelled as flakey and as having crazy ideas, but
    I am starting to realize that I am not crazy, and that its ok to be wired differently. I only wish I would have embraced this earlier in life. It’s never too late and maybe I will start working on career number 5! Thanks again!!!

  6. Liz says:

    Ha! I am currently reading THE ART OF ASKING by Amanda Palmer and she delves into the imposter syndrome. I think we multipods are all just artists at heart. As such, we disbelieve in the validity of our art/process/creativity/value and this is what leads to the imposter phenomenon. All we have to do is believe! Much love to the puttypeeps all over the world!

  7. Duncan says:

    Hi Emilie
    I find it fascinating how your emails drop in my inbox with appropriate thoughts just as I am feeling them!!!
    I am currently feeling like I can’t do anything rather than being incredibly confident about being able to everything which is how I often feel when confidence is high.
    I am out of work right now with no income and two projects I have lined up are way off being able to provide an income and my landlord wants to sell his house and is waiting for me to move out so the pressure just now is intense.
    However your email and this thread has provide a little solace so thank you
    Duncan x

  8. Michele FitzGerald says:

    In the 70’s English and theater classes used at school assemblies a poem by Josef Rodriguez called Lump of Clay. The poem has a religious context – after all I was schooled in the Bible Belt – but it’s message to me when I presented it in public was we have a part in, a say and a place to be who we are right here on earth. Curiosity, deep curiosity, is like an archaeological dig into oneself, an awareness of oneself and ultimately a sharing of oneself. I cannot tell you how much relief I possess in the 21st century knowing the world is populated with countless individuals who share a depth of curiosity and what they might do with what is found by it.

  9. Melissa B says:

    Yup I totally feel like an impostor in so many things and areas. I think a lot of it has to deal with me really needing to accept how I truly am and not feeling like I have to prove myself to anyone. This is really hard in today’s social media circus where complete strangers judge you based on their own perceptions of the world. Labels are a great thing in helping you identify with a group of people or to try and make sense of all of these disparate parts of yourself. However, if you find them limiting then don’t use them like you said Emily. I am totally a fan of self identifying as you know yourself best(hopefully) and even if you only label yourself inside your own head it can be quite empowering and comforting. Multipot and proud!!

  10. Felipe Cabral says:

    Hello Emilie! I would say to them, believe in yourself and don´t forget about how you are! You can be anything, you just have to believe in that and put some effort to be it! You have an amazing blog and your words always open something in me, like activate some triggers. Thank you for that!
    If one day you came to Brasil one day, i´ll be glad to join you for some talk, or if i visit us!

  11. Anindita says:

    I guess somewhere the idea of carving your niche leaves you feeling like you are doing something unrealistic, something that is just in your head.
    Kind of reminds me of what Dumbledore says to Harry, ” Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real”
    Thanks Emilie, I found out about multipotentialites through your ted talk, and not just the idea but how you presented it left an impact on me at time when I was struggling through depression, feeling like I am self sabotaging, and insincere.

  12. Elarue says:

    Hi, Emilie,
    When I saw your TED talk, I ticked all boxes. I’ve just read the article you sent today over the email about the Renaissance man and at some point it is said that one should not focus on achievements (if they are successful or not), but on following their passions. I’m 41 and I have pursued a number of “passions” in my life. I have 2 majors in college. I’m also a teacher of English as a second language. I like music and I used to have “as a hobby” many activities to prepare myself to be an actor for the musical theater (this was a passion completely out of my league). I love exercising and dieting and am forever curious about it. I’m going through a difficult period of my life as I had to relocate from my home country following another passion: my husband who is a diplomat. It’s been 3 years, and I don’t know what to do. It’s like I’m 18 again because I have to make a decision about what to do for a living. First I was working in a home office scheme to my old job as a civil servant, but the pilot program is on suspension at the moment. Going back to the “follow your passions” or maybe “your curiosity”- I reached a point in which I pursued all of my passions and I feel lack of energy to pursue anything else. Think about someone who’s had to many relationships and even though a mature love has arisen for those former passions, they are no longer passions. I’m a lawyer but I don’t think I still have passion to pursue it in a different country. I like teaching, but I’m not as patient as I used to be… my therapist also thinks I’m facing too many difficulties in my life now and that I should get extra help as she thinks I’m depressed. If I am, I’m a high functioning one, because with a lot of effort I can still manage day after day. I just feel that too many options that I kept open in my life are giving me “decision fatigue” and I can’t decide what to do. I feel stuck. Right now I wish I was not a multipotentialite. I want to feel passion again, but nothing seems to attract me anymore. Do you have any ideas on how to make me narrow down these multitudes so that I can move on? How to find yet a new passion or fall in love again with long-ago passions? Thank you.

  13. Harald says:

    Thinking of the word “multipotentialite” as such, I can’t imagine any human on the face of the planet to be anything else than a multipotentialite. Here is why: Let’s try to reverse the concept in order to come up with a name for the other “tribe” – the group of non-multipotentialites, that is. “multi” (being the Latin prefix for “many”) would call for its direct antipole to mean “one”. In Latin, the opposite prefix is “uni”. We could also go with the Greek equivalent called “mono”.

    And thus, if you are a unipotentialite or monopotentialite (whichever you prefer) then you have exactly one potential to unfold. Only one? You are serious? This sounds impossible to me! A human being so restricted would be the ultimate exception – nearly worthy of being displayed in a museum.

    So, if we believe my little philological analysis then we are all multipotentialites and only differ in the degree of knowing it and, of course, the willingness to lead the non-linear or even continuously branching life (privately and/or professionally) that this kind of lifestyle will entail.

    I actually like the word “unipotentialite” as the opposite term because it can be understood to denote a person who unifies (i.e. concentrates) all mental and physical energies of multiple potentials in a particular field and, thus, becomes a specialist.

    I hope my words make any sense to you. :-)

    Cheers and thank you all for reading,
    Harald

  14. Kara says:

    When I first stumbled across your TED talk, I literally cried the whole way through. I’m 45 now and I’ve been struggling my whole life trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I’ve been everything from a ballroom dancer to a sign language interpreter and I’m still jumping from one thing to another. I am a part of a business group where we present on issues we are having; and I was preparing a presentation about what I was going to do next with my life. My kids are teenagers and that opened some space in my life to make a larger commitment to a “career” than I had in the last 10 or 15 years. I was about to enroll in Real Estate school and I was currently taking writing classes and I was desperate to finally find “my thing”. After I watched your TED talk, I changed the angle of my presentation from having the group help me decide what to choose, to helping me figure out how to pursue many things at once. I’ve still struggled though, with being ok with myself, having come from a family that holds specialization in very high regard. Looking back, I realize that I had one nagging thought as I watched you speak… well, I’m not really as great as the people you described. I’ve never actually accomplished anything significant, nor have I stayed with anything long enough to really have success. I am still an imposter, even here. It wasn’t until I read this article that I really realized I was feeling this. Still working on all of it. And your book is also a great resource! Thank you:)

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