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Fighting the Imposter Syndrome

I wonder sometimes, why we, as individuals, are so good at tormenting ourselves with self-doubt. “What if I can’t do it?” “What if it’s too difficult?” “What if I’m not smart enough?”I think these are questions that all of us at some point may have thought. In my experience, these self-destructive internal remarks have led to the imposter syndrome. Even when I overcome difficulties and obtain achievements, I have a difficult time accepting them. I’m writing this, because I want others struggling with the “imposter syndrome” to know that they are not alone.

Abigail Abrams from Time magazine, interviewed psychologist Audrey Ervin. She stated that, “today, impostor syndrome can apply to anyone who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes”.When I was an undergraduate, I applied to summer lab research internships at colleges across the country. My GPA was average. I had no previous research experience. I felt as though I really didn’t have anything impressive to offer the admissions committee. I spent weeks writing my personal statement. I knew it was my only chance to convey who I really was to the committee. A few months later, I was notified of my acceptance into a fully funded summer program. I remember feeling completely surprised and overjoyed.

Growing up, my parents were incredibly supportive; instilling confidence within me at an early age. It wasn’t until I grew older, that I began to doubt myself and my abilities. My first day working in the research lab was also the first time I had ever felt the imposter syndrome. It continued for ten extremely long weeks. Three years later, I started graduate school. I immediately felt like I was accepted into the program by accident. The imposter syndrome persisted. I still feel it today. Yet it wasn’t until recently that I began to face this problem head-on. Dr. Susan Weinscheck, a behavioral psychologist, reports that, “some psychologists say that the Imposter Syndrome is most common in high achieving women, results in working harder to prevent people from discovering that one is an imposter, promotes a need to be approved of, and is most common in graduate students.” I truly resonate with this finding and I realize that it’s time to change this downward spiral.

From my experience, it is relatively easy to become consumed by the imposter syndrome. Pretending to be confident hasn’t changed the anxiety and fear that overwhelms me when I feel as if I don’t belong. I have learned that it is essential to be self-aware. I truly believe that positive self-talk and internal reflection will be the best way to combat my self doubt. This will help me stop these negative, self-perpetuating thoughts from gaining power. With time, I will begin to form a new image of myself; a person who belongs. As you read this blog, maybe you’ve found yourself relating to my experiences. If this is true, you may also benefit from analyzing your thoughts. Begin by asking yourself whether your thoughts are productive or destructive to your self image. This is the best way for you to restructure the way we think, and take control.

Personally, I know my emotions can get the best of me at times. My brain is great at throwing logic right out the door. I have found that sharing what I’m feeling with a trusted mentor gives me great perspective and eases my concerns. Sharing your personal feelings with someone you trust can be insightful and comforting. You might even be surprised to find out that others may have also suffered from the imposter syndrome too. It is more common than you probably think. The impostor syndrome is a psychological villain in many ways, but it can be defeated. Leon Brown, a professional baseball player, once said, “It all begins and ends in your mind. What you give power to has power over you”. I have recently adopted this as my new mantra, and it works for just about any difficulty in life that I face. I believe that it is completely normal and common to experience imposter syndrome, however it is important that we do not let it persist long enough to deter us from attaining our goals.

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