Conquering the Imposter Syndrome
“The beauty of the impostor syndrome is you vacillate between extreme egomania and a complete feeling of: ‘I’m a fraud! They’re on to me! I’m a fraud!’ So you just try to ride the egomania when it comes and enjoy it, and then slide through the idea of fraud.” – Tina Fey
What is the Imposter Syndrome?
“I feel like a fraud”.
I can’t remember the first time I noticed it, but it’s been the voice in the back of my head for a while. This voice has told me that I’m not good enough, that I don’t know what I’m doing, that I don’t belong. It’s silenced me from speaking up and sharing my voice or even just trying things that I may or may not be good at.
As I’ve progressed throughout my academic and professional career, I learned a named for this voice. It’s called “imposter syndrome” and it occurs when you have a persistent pattern of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy, to the point of feeling like a fraud, despite evidence to the contrary.
The unfortunate side of imposter syndrome is that the more success and achievement you gain, the more pronounced it can become. Success gets attributed to external factors or luck and can actually result in feelings of guilt, like you didn’t actually deserve your accomplishments and recognitions over others.
And sometimes it’s just weird to think of yourself as a professional anything. Maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as a “successful college or graduate student” or maybe you’ve never identified with any professional you’ve met. It’s hard to believe you are that person – that engineer, teacher, doctor, or lawyer – when you can’t relate or identify with anyone like that.
Where does it come from?
Being at a prestigious and selective university, it’s easy to compare yourself to everyone around you. Sometimes it seems like students are involved in so many clubs and activities and you are just struggling to get by. You may even wonder why you were accepted to college in the first place or ask yourself, “If they knew who I really was, would they have accepted me?”
The truth is that others people’s achievements have no bearing on your worth or talent. Most of us are just trying to figure it out and none of us are perfect at what we do, even the most accomplished among us. It also takes some trust in the powers that be that yes, you do belong here and you were accepted for a reason.
Beyond that, family expectations, identity – and intersections of identities, higher level coursework, perfectionism, depression, and anxiety can all be confounding factors that can contribute to feelings of imposter syndrome. Without digging too deep into these factors here, please contact the Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) at (352) 392-1575 if you need someone to talk to or more support.
What can you do about it?
Name and accept the feeling. It’s okay to feel this way and a lot of people do. It may be uncomfortable, but it can be powerful to name and accept these feelings, sit with them, and let them pass. And eventually the more you do this, it becomes less of a big deal and easier to talk about.
Cultivate a growth mindset. Focus on the learning or process of something rather than the result. Embrace challenges, be open to feedback, and understand that just because something is hard for you now, doesn’t mean it will always be.
Embrace failure. Let go of the need to be – or appear — perfect or the best. Allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to make mistakes or show a weakness. Even if you don’t know the answer to a question or how to do something, try it out. This is where the learning happens.
Humanize your idols. Stop putting people you admire on a pedestal. (Yes, even Beyoncé). Again, none of us are perfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and focusing on the perceived perfection of others can really exacerbate these feelings.
Talk about it. Talking to your friends, peers, or a counselor about these thoughts and feelings can help to normalize them. Your parents, professors, and mentors have probably dealt with these issues, too and can help.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. It takes practice, persistence, and support. One space to find that support is through Career Conversations, which are informal, small group conversations facilitated by a Career Connections Center staff member. Here you will be able to talk with other students with similar questions and concerns surrounding issues related to career and professionalism.
Have you ever experienced the Imposter Syndrome, if so share how you have overcome those feelings below.