Psych Stuff: The Impostor Syndrome

Are you a “high-achiever”, but feel like you are inadequate? No matter what you do and however big of an accomplishment it is, that it’s “not a big deal”? That whatever successes you have are attributed to luck? To many this may seem that you are “too humble”, but it very may be The Impostor Syndrome.

The impostor syndrome, coined by Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes , is characterized as feeling like you are not really a successful, competent, and smart student, that you are only imposing as such. The impostor syndrome affects anyone that is high-achieving in life; not just in academia. This includes celebrities, business owners, and even teachers. This hits home to a few people I know. They attribute everything—like getting accepted to UCLA— to luck or feel that they are not worthy of being recognized for their accomplishments. The impostor syndrome can affect men and women in similar numbers, despite older evidence suggesting women showed signs of it more.

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The three common signs of the Impostor Syndrome are as follows:

  1. Feeling fake: believing that you are a fraud and do not deserve to be in the position you are in.
  2. Success = luck: believing that all your successes are attributed to you getting lucky.
  3. Discrediting success: taking your successes and making them less of an accomplishment and taking failures harder.

The Impostor Syndrome can come from labels such as: “the smart one”, “goody tw0-shoes”, etc; especially when coming from ones family. It creates social expectations that the person feels they cannot live up to. They put down their own accomplishments because they feel the opposite of what the accomplishment validates. It becomes an internal struggle between what they feel and what they do. The real fear is someone “finding out” they are frauds.

Commonly among people who suffer from Impostor Syndrome is the internalization of their failures and successes. They internalize failures more than their successes so that their failures end up taking over. In many cases, people will not ask for help or show that they are struggling because they could not live up to what people thought they were.

Although I said the Impostor Syndrome affects men and women similarly, women have a heightened chance to experience these symptoms. I believe the general gist behind women experiencing Impostor Syndrome comes from societies ways of discrediting female achievements. With outdated societal norms still telling women they are inferior to men and cannot be as successful as men, women experiencing Impostor Syndrome would be afraid of successes because they believe they lack the validation behind their successes. (See “The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women” belowimpostorwoman

Personal Experiences

The reason I chose this topic for Psych Stuff is because it hit home for me. All my life, I was told how smart I am and how I possess all these other traits. Of course I let it all go to my head, but it was hard for me to tell others that I was, in fact, struggling sometimes. Just recently, my sister told me how she thought high school was easy for me because she thought I did not struggle. She realized it was because I never showed it. I had breakdowns in high school because I felt that I could not live up to expectations of teachers and family. When I got to college, the same thing happened. I felt that I was fed all these lies and people put their eggs in the wrong basket. It made me rethink my major time and time again. I felt that I did not deserve the scholarship or UCLA. All these negative thoughts filled my head because I felt that I was something that I wasn’t…

Eventually, I got over it. I started getting tutoring. I accepted my failures and celebrated my successes. I found friends that are supporting and we can speak highly of each other. I have a community of friends and mentors in the Jackie Robinson Foundation that are doing amazing things, yet they are supporting and validating everyone’s accomplishments no matter how big or small.

I am not sure how much this could help someone, but what I do to celebrate my successes no matter the magnitude is treat myself. One thing I do after a midterm or final is immediately go and get boba or a milkshake and play video games with my friends. If I do well, I attribute credit to myself as well as the others that helped me. All I gotta say is:

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However, I constantly hear from people at school that UCLA made mistakes in accepting them. “My SAT/ACT scores were too low”, “My GPA was low”, “I’m taking a person’s spot who deserves to be here”. I hear these things every now and then, but it’s up to them to recognize this and up to them to want to fix it.

Questions

  1. Do you have experiences with impostor syndrome? If so, what are they?
  2. Why do you think it is mentioned that teachers experience impostor syndrome?
  3. If you were ever “found out to be a “fraud”, how did it make you feel? (can be answered in #1)

Feel free to leave answers and comments below!

Links:

21 Proven Ways To Overcome Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome (Wikipedia)

The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention (PDF)

The Impostor Syndrome (Caltech)

Treat Yo Self – Parks & Rec (Video)

 

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