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Let’s Talk About Imposter Syndrome

Updated: Feb 2

Contributor: Grace Sebulsky

Imposter syndrome explains the feeling of personal incompetence despite education, experience and accomplishments. If feelings of self-doubt, incompetency or being unqualified are common to you, you are in good company. Psychologists, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes first identified imposter syndrome in 1978. Their study focused on high achieving women that “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” Though this study was done on women, research has been done following Clance and Imes findings to indicate that men too suffer from imposter syndrome.

The term “imposter” brings in another sentiment of fraudulence to the original feelings of self doubt, further limiting one’s ability to see pass the anxiety and feel worthy of their accomplishments. It’s seen often in academia, despite a sustained record of sustaining good academic performance, students still feel as though they are not as capable as their peers nor, do they deserve to be in the program of their choosing. Furthermore, a pattern has been detected that the larger the success achieved by an individual, the greater the imposter syndrome becomes. This indicates that it isn’t simply a lack of achievement creating feelings of self doubt within the individual but rather, a lack of confidence and inability to see past feelings of anxiety. American’s Psychology Association relates feelings of imposter syndrome to being raised in families where high success and achievements were of priority. The pressure to achieve is hard to subside once implemented for many years. Yet, it should be noted that despite a likelihood of imposter syndrome to stem from a family centered around perfectionism, it can also be a result of bad luck.

Now, what steps need to be taken to subside or eradicate these feelings? We must talk about it. Share your feelings with others, chances are they feel them too or know of someone who also is dealing with imposter syndrome. If you’re in need of help, then ask for it. It can be challenging, sometimes pride and dignity get in the way, but there are so many people who are willing to help, especially in academia. Recognize that despite these feelings, you are not a fraud nor a failure. And that these feelings, though not enjoyable, may be beneficial in the long run. Failure teaches us lessons after all. And lastly, don’t let your fears interrupt whatever you’re wanting to accomplish.

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