Since the eighth grade, I’ve had a bad habit of putting myself down. I was bullied and didn’t have great social skills, so I thought being self-deprecating would make me seem funny and relatable. Unfortunately, I overcorrected. I began to sound crazy and ended up convincing people to believe my problems more often than destigmatizing them. I’ve now internalized a lot of that leftover self-hatred. Working to deprogram my self-deprecating mindset has been a journey that continues to this day. Like it does for many others that were bullied and put down as children. That self-hatred has manifested into a form of imposter syndrome.
This syndrome is defined as “anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one’s accomplishments to luck or other external forces.”
In the arts, as well as college in general, imposter syndrome is fairly common, appearing in around nine to 82 percent of people. As an English major, concentrating in journalism, it seems to me that many of my classmates feel the urge to call their work terrible. It’s almost a tradition, as a writer, to hate everything you’ve ever done.
As mentioned in a recent medical study, imposter syndrome is not officially recognized by medical professionals. Instead, it is an “observed phenomenon”. Some professionals suspect that the syndrome occurs more frequently in minorities and those whose parents alternated frequently between high praise and heavy criticism. Women are said to especially suffer from this.
People think being confident is just faking it till you make it, but I’m not sure. Sometimes I wonder, if I fake too much, maybe I’ll end up somewhere that doesn’t fit me.
When I was six, I was diagnosed with ADHD. Medications have been pushed at me as punishment and as therapy. “Maybe I’m just stupid,” I think to myself. So many successful people suffer from the same struggles. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that my struggles will guarantee my success. It’s hard to know when I’m making decisions that will put me on that positive track.
It’s hard to tell, as a professional in any creative field, whether you are doing a good job. There’s no right or wrong answer in art, so sometimes it feels like the only thing that gives you worth is what others think and how you stack up to those around you. But comparisons can hurt. I know of people who turn those insecurities into meanness, which I try never to do.
Whenever I receive the slightest bit of criticism, I assume everyone must think I’m trash, and I beat myself up until my brain shuts down. Alternatively, when I receive praise, I tend to convince myself that the person praising me is just being nice, or feels bad for me. One thing I’m trying to combat this is to stay neutral at all times. I don’t get too excited when I succeed, but I don’t get too nihilistic either.
Dr. Albers, from Cleavlandclinic.org, suggests ways to overcome imposter syndrome. A major point of advice given is to stop comparing oneself to others. Another is to take note of your accomplishments. Finally, and most importantly, if the issue is severe enough, Albers recommends speaking with a licensed therapist.
In high school, for some reason, I had a reputation for being smart, so why am I barely scratching the surface of a 3.0 in a school with a high acceptance? Things like this eat at me, and it’s hard to keep moving forwards in the face of such stress. I was a “gifted” kid, and anyone else with that moniker probably knows what that means: undiagnosed ADHD. I’m kidding, but it’s shocking how often that tends to be the case.
Sometimes I feel like, as a writer, I have to constantly be passionate about words and writing and grammar, or I’m a total poser. But that’s not fair. As with any job under capitalism, eventually, people may get tired of their work, and question if they are doing the right thing. We just need to be sure that deep down, this is where we want to make our mark in the world.
In individuals with ADHD, imposter syndrome is especially common. These individuals, due to a lack of focus, may see themselves as lazy and flakey, and believe themselves unworthy of any accomplishments. Many of these same people may also have been part of a gifted program as children. Imposter syndrome can often be a symptom of what is called Gifted Kid Burnout. I struggle with this, as I have failed to properly cope with how average I have become as an adult.
Some sources portray imposter syndrome as being a way of explaining the feelings of inadequacy, but I’m not sure this is the root of my problem though.
Imposter syndrome is a coping mechanism in some ways. A way to prevent one’s expectations from rising too high. If I think, “I don’t deserve this success, I’m not very good at what I do” it can help push me to keep getting better, keep me from becoming complacent. But striking a balance is the key. It seems that’s always the answer to all of these questions, frustratingly enough. In the end, though, the best way to handle any mental health issue is to contact a mental health professional for advice.