I got to know about the impostor syndrome during my first semester in grad school. A colleague wanted to do a paper on it. She explained a little bit about it and expressed her set back on doing a paper on the impostor syndrome. There were only few academic researches done on the topic.
Right then, I thought I might do my thesis research on it as I was already hunting for topics to research for my thesis at the time. So I took to the internet and the library database to see what I could find on the topic, and as my colleague earlier confirmed, the most comprehensive source I could find on the topic was Wikipedia (every responsible scholar knows this is not a good source for academic research. Do not use it).
Anyway, that dashed my hopes of finally deciding what my thesis research would be based on. However, it did not stop me from reading about it. I have always loved psychology and very much love to learn how the human mind works, what makes us act the way we do. I did not study psychology but I guess communication studies was close enough.
During my personal research, I discovered that I suffered from a massive case of impostor syndrome. Many women do. Let me explain. Do you sometimes feel like a fraud, a fake, or better still a con artist that succeeded in fooling many people for many years into thinking that you were smart and deserving of your accomplishments?
The answer to this question in many minds reading this right now is yes. I am glad because I am not alone. Many of us suffer from impostor syndrome, CEOs, inventors, straight As students, you name it. The Caltech counseling center explained it as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
My case back then was ironic. There I was reading pages and pages of what this psychological defect was about, and at the same time still battling the impostor inside of me as to how I got into grad school. I was asking myself, “am I really that smart? These people must have made a mistake. Did I really deserve the full scholarship? I wonder if I would graduate. I would soon be found out”. Yes, all of those thoughts ran through my mind at some point in my life and it still does sometimes. It is way better now.
Impostor syndrome will make you feel everything you have achieved have been as a result of luck and your luck might soon run out. It is terrible but true. Believe me, after my research, the impostor in me only got stronger. That was so pathetic.
At the time, I read all I could about impostor syndrome except how to overcome it. Indeed, pathetic. Fortunately, here is the good news, I did more research and I was able to discover that there are ways to deal with impostor syndrome. If only I knew then what I know now. My sister and I talked about it and as expected, she has it too! She asked an interesting question that got me thinking. She asked, “so what does it really mean? Does it mean that your suspicions are true, are you all you feel you are?”
Research shows that people, especially women suffering from impostor syndrome, often believe that if they show competence and confidence in their abilities, they may be rejected by others. Sometimes, you may have that feeling of fear that you don’t want to jinx your success by acting like you are as competent as you truly are, we all know the feeling. However, think about it, if you really were as incompetent and unintelligent as you think you are, then not only are you a master of luck, but the people that believe in you must be really incompetent and blind as well.
Further research helped me to discover ways to deal with impostor syndrome. And it works! By now, you should be able to tell if you are suffering from impostor syndrome or not. If you are, here are some helpful tips:
Misery needs company: Share your feelings with others so you can be reassured that you are not alone. It happens to a lot of people!
What does not kill you only makes you stronger: Be aware! Now that you are enlightened about this topic, you can identify when these feelings of impositions creep in. Remember that awareness is the first step to change and freedom.
Give yourself a reality check: Give yourself a pep talk, not in a creepy way like talking out loud. I mean as your impostor thoughts and feelings creep in, balance it out with a counter opinion like positive self-fulfilling prophecies. It is as simple as telling yourself you are smart as opposed to “I am not smart enough.”
Draw the line between feelings and reality: The reality is that you are successful, you are smart, and you are winning. No contrary opinion of yours will change this reality. Put those negative feelings to rest, they only complicate things. Enjoy your success, embrace it.