Before this long exposé begins, it’s important to note what exactly impostor syndrome is. In short, it is described as a phenomenon or experience where one feels like they don’t belong or deserve to be where they are now, despite personal achievements. There’s a sense of ongoing fear that people will soon realize you lack the competence you present.
Impostor syndrome is classified as a psychological phenomenon rather than a mental disorder. Therefore, the severity of the mental toll it can take can oftentimes be understated.
Personally, impostor syndrome felt like a one-on-one battle that I was constantly losing. No matter what accomplishments I achieved, I felt that they meant nothing, and that I was the last person on Earth who deserved them. I was doubting almost everything positive in my life and being skeptical of those who wanted to praise me for those things. It wasn’t until I went to therapy for the first time that I was able to pinpoint what exactly this feeling was, and why it felt more heavy than just not knowing how to congratulate myself.
I had to take a step back and look at the other components of my mental health and how that made me question my capabilities and achievements. Perfectionism and anxiety were the culprits that made my impostor feeling much more than just a passing experience. As a result, I was left with a dark cloud of unworthiness over my head, and I felt like a complete fraud.
Perfectionism seems to be the root cause of many of my problems, yet I can still manage to come up with a million excuses for it. Perfectionism and imposter syndrome make one hell of a combination in making it extremely difficult to be proud of myself for the major and minor achievements in my life. The perfection that I desire makes nothing I do good enough. I often make high, unrealistic expectations for myself, and I subsequently feel inadequate and distressed when I can not meet those expectations. I focus too much on my shortcomings and flaws which makes my brain go into a constant loop of, “You deserve nothing since you can’t get everything right.” Insane, I know.
Anxiety is another one that creeps its way in to make everything worse. Impostor syndrome in combination with my anxiety causes me to stray from new experiences in fear that I am not competent enough to do them despite my skills that say otherwise. This consequently leads to me self sabotaging and missing out on opportunities by creating a false narrative that people think I am capable, but, in actuality, I am not. Anxiety also affects my confidence when talking about my achievements. I tend to say things like, “It’s not that special” and “I just lucked out” to describe the things of which I am actually most proud. Deep down, I know that these achievements mean a lot to me, but unfortunately it had become an automatic reflex for me to subvert my success to lower other people’s expectations of me to avoid disappointment.
Impostor syndrome is one of those things that can really mess with the way you perceive yourself and ruin potential possibilities in your love, social, educational and career life. I’ve done a lot of introspection this year to identify my unhealthy behaviors and thoughts and actually work on them, instead of writing it off as, “It’s just the way I am.” With my battle against impostor syndrome, I especially learned to be kinder to myself and bask in the amount of things I have accomplished by the age of 20, as well as embrace and recognize the talents that I have. I am by no means cured of any negative thoughts, but I have become a much happier and confident person of which I am incredibly proud.