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Spartans Speak: What is imposter syndrome, and how to deal with it

So, what is Imposter Syndrome? When I started this article I had no clue, but it sounded interesting! After a deep dive into all things about imposter syndrome, I am now informed enough to share some of this information with you!

According to Ling Le, SJSU alumni who graduated with a BA in Behavioral Science, Imposter Syndrome, “refers to an individual who doubts their own skills, abilities, successes, and overall capabilities in their life.”

In her research journal, Le dives into imposter syndrome in regards to persons of color who are first generation college students. While it is very common within this demographic, it can also be seen in all kinds of people. 

Imposter syndrome manifests itself in a lot of different ways, but some of the most common methods are self-doubt, crediting your success to external sources, overachieving, and sometimes even sabotaging your own success. 

While Imposter Syndrome isn’t something that gets medically diagnosed, it is still very common and can often be self recognized. The way it presents itself is different for everyone, and so is the amount of time it can take to affect a person. For some, they only experience it for a few weeks like if you are starting a new job, while for others it never really goes away.

Dr. Valerie Young claims that there are many different types of imposters within Imposter Syndrome, in her book The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It.  

She divided Imposter Syndrome into 5 different categories: the expert, the perfectionist, natural geniuses, the soloist, and the superhero. While all these types struggle with Imposter Syndrome, they struggle in different ways. The expert is not satisfied until they feel like they know everything about what they are doing. The perfectionist wants everything to be well… perfect, and gets anxious when they aren’t. Natural geniuses get the hang of things super quickly, but when they can’t they feel ashamed. The soloist fears that asking for help could reveal incompetence. Superheroes are workaholics.

All of these different kinds of people struggle with feeling out of place with what they are doing and constantly feel like they are not what they seem to be. It is as though they are acting and are in fear of someone potentially finding out that they aren’t who they say they are.  

Before we go into some ways to cope with imposter syndrome, let’s take a quick glance at some factors that can increase the likelihood of experiencing Imposter Syndrome. Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, from Georgia State, discuss a few different things that can be related to the likelihood of experiencing Imposter Syndrome.  

One of the most common ones is your family environment. They stated that things like having a very successful sibling or relative can make one feel inadequate. Another thing would be if you were given things easily as a child or didn’t have to struggle to do anything. Now when you are faced with a struggle in your career or life you feel unprepared, which can result in Imposter Syndrome. 

Similar to the topic Ling Le discussed, being from a marginalized group, race, or culture can also result in the Imposter Syndrome. Le focuses specifically on Asian Americans in her journal, but being from a specific background can often result in feeling out of place in what you’re doing. 

Now that we know a little more about what Imposter Syndrome is and some causes of it, let’s take a look at how to cope with it. 

The first step is recognizing Imposter Syndrome when you are experiencing it. It is more than just a feeling. Once you can identify it you are able to better understand how it will affect you and be able to combat it.

After you identify Imposter Syndrome and some of your symptoms, the best thing you can do is shift your mental attitude. Some ways to do this are to have a mantra or affirmation. It might sound silly to some, but even something as simple as putting a positive thought out into the universe can be beneficial to stopping imposter syndrome. 

Another good idea is to simply talk about it. You are not alone in your struggle with Imposter Syndrome. Almost everyone has experienced it at least once in their life, and sometimes being able to relate our struggles with another person can help us overcome them. 

Finally, own your accomplishments. You’re amazing, and you should be so incredibly proud of all the things you’ve accomplished, both big and small. Go a little easy on yourself, and appreciate how far you’ve come, and how much potential you have to continue to grow. 

Share your experience with Imposter Syndrome by tagging us on Instagram @HerCampusSJSU!

This was the first of our advice column where a Her Campus SJSU writer will write an article on any topic you need help with! If you would like to submit a request anonymously, please fill out this form: https://forms.gle/ijBDTgUweA84dUoG8!

Second year Journalism student at SJSU
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