Overcoming Impostor Syndrome
Recently, I landed a leadership position in my school's chamber choir, and I felt guilty for getting it. here are people who deserve this more than me. Can I really do this? Those are only a few of the thoughts that ran through my head, even though it was completely unmerited. My choir director had decided that I did in fact deserve it. I earned it. Then a few days later, I came across something about Impostor Syndrome. It was like I’d been found.
What is impostor syndrome, anyway? Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, two awesome lady bosses, coined the term in 1978, though people have undoubtedly been experiencing it for far longer. They described it as a feeling of "phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement." Once I figured out what I was dealing with, I wanted to know how to get through it.
First of all, know that you are not alone and that what you're good at does bring value to the world. Extremely talented and successful women like Maya Angelou and Emma Watson have opened up about experiencing it. Secondly, find a wing woman—someone to bounce ideas off of, or just to talk to. Don’t internalize all your fears and feelings. It’s so important to have a friend who understands you. Finally, think critically. Is there any proof of your supposed inadequacies? I’m going to guess the answer is no.
Oh, and did I mention it disproportionately affects women and minorities? My guess: After centuries of belittlement and discrimination, we feel we have to prove more and work harder. Women also tend to attribute success to luck or outside factors and their failure to themselves. Maybe it's the world's obsession with perfection and our flaws. Maybe it’s because the world brings us down for succeeding and for failing (make up your mind!). Maybe it's because we too often confuse doing our best with being THE BEST. Maybe it's because we constantly compare our weaknesses to other people's strengths. Maybe it's a combination of those things, or something else entirely. I don't know. It’s different for everyone.
Women are taught to doubt themselves, either by society or their parents. We constantly compare ourselves to people on social media with seemingly perfect lives. We are expected to be "likeable" when all we should be expected to be is ourselves. We are told, directly or indirectly, that our looks are more valuable than our brains. We feel like we have to apologize for our successes and our failures.
All I know is that I can't promise that you will be able to stop feeling like an impostor or fraud just like that. I know that I didn't. (I still don’t, if I’m being honest.) John Steinbeck once said, “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” That’s something we should all take to heart: You don't have to be perfect to be good.
By Saumya Bajaj