Why does Rudyard Kipling call disaster and triumph impostors in his poem "If"?

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If you can meet with triumph and disaster 
And treat those two imposters just the same;

Truly, triumph and disaster are imposters. To triumph in a wrong doing is not a time to shout the victory. Hitler was triumphant is his murdering of the innocent Jews. He gloated in his triumph for a while. He was quite triumphant and successful in killing millions of Jews. Ultimately, his triumph was an imposter. It was only a matter of time before he was surrounded and defeated by his enemy. Then his triumph was an imposter. His triumph was not real. He lost the battle eventually and ended his life in suicide.

Likewise, disaster, when it comes with all of its fury, may look to be real, but it too can be an imposter. In the face of loss, there can be hidden blessings. For example, one may lose his or her abilities, only to find other abilities become stronger. Joni Eareckson broke her neck in a swimming accident. She lost her ability to walk. She became paralyzed from her neck down. What looked like a disaster was actually turned around for her good (Romans 8:28). Her disaster was turned into a blessing when she learned to paint using her teeth. She would never had learned this had she not faced the disaster of losing her sense of feeling. Her disaster became an imposter because now we have her beautiful masterpieces that would never have been painted had she not lost her sense of feeling or touch. This is how disaster can be an imposter. When a blessing comes out of disaster, disaster becomes an imposter, especially when it is turned around for one's good (Romans 8:28).

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Enotes provides a fine overview of the poem:  “If” is a didactic poem, a work meant to give instruction. In this case, “If” serves as an instruction in several specific traits of a good leader. Kipling offers this instruction not through listing specific characteristics, but by providing concrete illustrations of the complex actions a man should or should not take which would reflect these characteristics.”  It is interesting that he personifies both “Disaster” and “Triumph,” and capitalizes the words to call attention to this.  Kipling also personifies “Will” toward the end of the poem.  Significantly, something might look like disaster but not be so, or might look like triumph but might be something else (such as defeat). For these reasons, they—the experiences of disaster and triumph—might be “imposters,” not really what they appear to be.  “Will,” however, is unmistakably that; it cannot seem to be anything other than what it really is.

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My thinking is that the speaker wants us to view life as a continuum, marked by peaks and valleys that may or may not be seminal events in our lives.  If we can resist becoming too self-assured by our successess nor too defeated by disasters, we can live more contentedly.

I am reminded by of the quote by Golda Meir, "Don't be so humble; you're not that great."

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