By Kathryn Cambrea, Editor in chief
Wow, I got an A on that test, you think to yourself. Initially, you are excited and proud that all of your studying brought you this far. However, it is not long until the negativity sets in, so you reconsider the moment. Well, I didn’t truly earn that grade.
Do you ever feel like your victories are not your own doing, but rather, are handed to you? If so, you are certainly not alone. You may have impostor syndrome. Also called the impostor phenomenon, Kirsten Weir writes in an American Psychological Association article, “First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s, impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.” Weir adds how even by doing well on an exam or series of exams, people will find the cause to be luck.
The topic of impostor syndrome immediately appealed to me because I feel that I exhibit its characteristics. I have the tendency to find excuses for when I do well and refuse to accept the fact that I succeeded. If I get the highest grade in the class on an assignment, I am initially happy. After negative deliberation, though, I’ll think: did I get that grade because I am the only girl in the class?
This is harmful thinking. In the moment, I will forget my own skills and the dedication I have to my studies and not even consider these components as causes of my success. Thus, the chain continues of pouring every drop of my work ethic into everything I do to try to abate such feelings. But is that counteractive?
In a Time article, writer Abigail Abrams includes behaviors that people with impostor syndrome tend to exhibit from Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, one of which is, “‘Soloists’ feel they have to accomplish tasks on their own, and if they need to ask for help, they think that means they are a failure or a fraud.” Abrams continues, “‘Supermen’ or ‘superwomen’ push themselves to work harder than those around them to prove that they’re not impostors. They feel the need to succeed in all aspects of life—at work, as parents, as partners—and may feel stressed when they are not accomplishing something.”
I have always thought of me delving into assignments right away and putting in maximum effort, as beneficial, and through looking at tendencies expressed by those affected by impostor syndrome, there are inevitable consequences which in turn fuel the need to resist any possible perceptions of fraud even further.
Hence, Weir writes, “Ultimately, the impostor phenomenon becomes a cycle. Afraid of being discovered as a fraud, people with impostor feelings go through contortions to do a project perfectly. When they succeed, they begin to believe all that anxiety and effort paid off. Eventually, they develop almost superstitious beliefs. ‘Unconsciously, they think their successes must be due to that self-torture,’ Imes says.”
Evidently, consuming yourself in your studies is not effective and is a paradox which Abrams shows. You do not want to be perceived as engrossed in your work, and yet, that is exactly what you are doing. Contrary to how you may feel though, just because you think your success is not your own does not in any way mean that people share your beliefs. You may be admired for your potential and not even know it because you are not taking the time to talk to people. I guarantee you that your family and friends’ perceptions of you contradict your low self-esteem; people who love you think that you are incredible and know that your victories are your own. You are so busy thinking of what people will say about you; meanwhile, they are not truly saying these things. They see your success; they do not see your harmful thoughts, only you do.
In an article for Psychology Today, author Megan Dalla-Camina recommends seeking mentors and communicating and how the feedback you receive will not only show that there are others in your predicament, but that you can improve your mindset. Weir and Abrams note a psychologist as an additional valuable resource.
Although these are great resources, I would like to add another. Find a way to bring more positivity into your life. Whether that is through taking a break, having social interaction, going out, reading words of inspiration, you will benefit.
To whoever may be reading this, I see you achieving your goals. And I think it’s about time that you see it, too.