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Mental Health

Coping With Feelings Of Imposter Syndrome And Inadequacy

Imposter syndrome is defined as a psychological phenomenon where someone feels as though their accomplishments and competency are not genuine. It often breeds the feeling that they will one day be exposed as a fraud or an “imposter.”

This feeling, which is ironically linked to many intelligent and high-achieving individuals, is commonly expressed through having bouts of self-doubt, crediting one’s success to outside factors such as luck and, at times, even sabotaging this success. 

Although this phenomenon can inspire a person to achieve high goals, people who suffer with imposter syndrome can also still feel inadequate when they achieve these goals. Because people are often ill-equipped to assess their skill-levels, they might overcompensate with more work and preparation than needed, leading to the belief that they only succeeded because of excess exertion of effort. Additionally, sufferers of imposter syndrome often struggle with constant anxiety, and the two feelings combined might lead one to believe that they do not belong in certain situations.

It is not uncommon to experience this sentiment from time to time; however, a persistent feeling of inadequacy in the face of success can be quite daunting, and should most likely be discussed with a licensed therapist or professional.

If any of this sounds all too familiar, here are a few ways to cope with this apprehension.

1. Understand that feelings are not factual.

Everyone deals with feelings of self-doubt, inadequacy and overall insecurity. But these feelings, while completely understandable, do not define you or your capabilities. If you truly were incapable of functioning in your work or educational spaces, you would not have been able to enter them in the first place. 

2. Highlight successes, forgive failures.

Take pride in your wins, whether they are big or small, but understand that it is still okay to make mistakes. Although everyone should seek excellence in all that they do, we all have room for improvement, and “perfection” is not realistic. You do not need to be perfect in order to adequately do a job or complete a task.  

3. Own your achievements.

It is extremely easy to attribute a job well done to luck or assistance from other sources. But even when credit should be given, you are the one who succeeded in that particular task. Take ownership of your accomplishments, and understand that you played the main role in attaining that success.

4. Visualize victory

Rather than visualizing every worst possible outcome that a task might bring, try visualizing yourself as the successor. Imagine that you will be calm, positive and confident — these feelings are not as unattainable as they might seem. 

In order to stop feeling like an imposter, it is important to understand that your intelligence, expertise and experience are valid. You are capable, you are worthy of success and your mistakes do not define you. You have not been permitted to experience any form of success by mistake.

Cory Utsey

Howard '23

Cory Utsey is a writer and blogger studying journalism at Howard University. Her interests include mainstream media, culture and social justice. Through her writing, she hopes to promote racial equity, wellness and intersectionality.
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