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Imposter Syndrome: A Common, But not impossible hurdle

The Oxford dictionary defines imposter syndrome as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.” This is one topic that hits home for a lot of people; almost everyone has likely had some form of imposter syndrome manifest itself. It doesn’t always pertain to academic settings. It could be at a workplace, friend group, church, you name it. Imposter syndrome could be described as being successful but full of doubt. You might think this is contrary to the embodiment of a successful person, right? Well, news flash: “successful” people are human too, and they may not always have it all together.

Have you ever achieved something you thought to be so grand, but then began to question the validity of it? Well, that’s one form of imposter syndrome. This form is one that I find to be the most dangerous. For instance, getting into a school or being offered a job of your preference means that others saw something in you. This means you do deserve a seat at the table. I find that what brings on imposter syndrome is comparison. When we compare ourselves to others, we devalue our efforts and time put into something by looking at other achievements. But here’s something to remember, do not forget that you tried. Trying, itself, is an achievement. Also, one thing that’s good to know is that “success” is subjective in many ways. What one person might consider a success is probably not the same in your book, and vice versa. In short, don’t waste your time condemning yourself to lift others. 

On the other hand, “self-doubt” can be harnessed for good by pushing yourself to do better. However, when this “self-doubt” causes you to dabble in unhealthy habits to achieve what you term as “success,” that becomes a problem. Imposter syndrome often leads to a flood of anxiety and constant “self-doubt” which, obviously, isn’t good for the mind. Going back to when I mentioned that successful people don’t have it all together, it really is true. I have come to realize that the higher you rise, the higher the hurdles also become. It doesn’t get easier; we just become more prepared to handle the troubles as we climb up the ladder.

A word to the wise is enough. I’ll end with this: whenever you feel imposter syndrome, remember that you are where you are for a reason. If you made it there, then there’s no need to question the validity of your presence. You “earned” your seat at the table. Now, think about why you wanted to be there in the first place. Instead of spending your time accounting for everyone else’s journey and comparing their success to yours, learn to perfect your craft. In short, define what success means to you. I know it’s easier said than done, trust me, I get it! It’s a journey and, I like to tell myself every day is a step closer. Take it easy and don’t beat yourself down too much. When you fall, dust your feet and get right back at it. You’ll find that the most successful people have “failed” a million times but never gave up.

Samantha is a freshman at Kenyon College. Reading is never a chore and writing is one of the many things that keep her sane. She is the author of the blog named, " Tales from Sammy". She hopes to be a published writer one day with a New York Times Bestseller’s Title. She also enjoys drinking tea and eating chocolate chip cookies!