After the initial celebration, tears and congratulatory messages distracting me for those first couple of days, I found myself alone. Alone, curled up under my covers on a cold December afternoon, staring at my acceptance letter. Finally, the anxiety of waiting for my admissions decision was behind me, as I was now a part of Boston University’s Class of 2022. Then why did I still feel so incompetent? So undeserving?
Imposter Syndrome, as described by the American Psychological Association, occurs when you are “unable to internalize and accept [your] success …. and fear that others will eventually unmask [you] as a fraud.” While it is not an official diagnosis as determined by a listing in the DSM, Imposter Syndrome is still recognized by psychologists as an ever frequent, harmful phenomenon.
I see Imposter Syndrome not only in myself, but in my Boston friends as well. Every dismissal after nailing the midterm that they were “just lucky,” every doubt of talent in the lab, and every feeling of incompetence after the internship interview is filled with Imposter Syndrome. I’m sure you’ve felt it too.
As ambitious college students dreaming of a fulfilling career, perhaps with an M.D. or PhD along the way, we can’t help but buckle under the pressure of our aspirations. With every tremble and shake, the feelings of self-doubt stemming Imposter Syndrome slip out. When your dreams are so big, it’s harder not to question your ability to achieve them. Then once you do, you are hit with the realization that the self-doubt does not just go away.
Suddenly, your dreams are not enough. Sure, I was accepted at Boston University, my dream school, but here I was still wondering if the admissions counselors made a mistake. Or if they just pitied me.
As I continued staring at my acceptance letter, my thoughts slowly devolved into a pool of insecurity. I found myself questioning my intelligence, how I’d line up against my peers in college, and the reasoning behind my admissions decision. Faster and faster the theories flowed, and I rapidly became overwhelmed.
Then I stopped. I took a deep breath and began thinking my insecurities through. No admission counselor will accept a student based on pity, and they certainly would never make a mistake like that.
I realized the key to overcoming my Imposter Syndrome is thinking it through. As much as I wanted to ignore the nasty, critical thoughts it brings, blocking them out only allowed the doubt to fester. By acknowledging my insecurities and rationalizing how unrealistic they were, I could put those thoughts to rest.
Trust me, Imposter Syndrome never vanishes, but my newfound awareness allows me to silence any self-doubt that appears.