I used to think imposter syndrome only happened in movies. That it was a problem designed for those lovable, underdog main characters, the ones who suddenly got an excess level of fame or riches, and feel drastically out of place. That it was just the climatic, coming-of-age “I don’t belong here!” moment in those cheesy rom-coms we all love.
I used to think that imposter syndrome was only a theme in movies, a challenge that those protagonists had to overcome in order to fully embrace who they were.
But I was wrong.
Imposter syndrome is not just present in films. It happens in real life too.
It even happens to college kids like us.
Its effects can range from a mild emotional response to an everyday, crippling hindrance. NBC News describes these effects as even causing problems not only for your career or education, but also for your overall health.
Psychology Today defines imposter syndrome as “a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. It is not an actual disorder, but was coined…. when [it was] found that despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, people with imposter syndrome remained convinced that they did not deserve the success they have.”
All in all, imposter syndrome is a demon who tries to talk you out of your present happiness. It tells you that you don’t deserve good things, that out of everyone it could happen to, that you are the least worthy person to receive it.
Oftentimes, it feels like you are afraid of being exposed as a fraud in your own life.
According to Forbes, imposter syndrome affects an estimated 70% of the population. Read that again. 70% of us. This is a major problem, especially considering that no one talks about it.
“Imposter syndrome is characterized by the feeling that one’s successes can be attributed to mere luck, rather than our own skills or qualifications," says Jeanne Croteau, a contributor for Forbes.
On a more personal level, I used to believe that this was a normal thing. A normal struggle. But I feel like it’s heavily messed with my self-confidence. I identify as an extrovert, and I love meeting new people and trying new things. I am optimistic and passionate about a diverse array of subject matters. But why do I feel overwhelmed by constant thoughts of inadequacy, that tell me I’m not good enough, that I don’t deserve something beautiful and amazing to happen in my life?
Why can’t it happen? What’s stopping me except my own thoughts, my own critics?
My self-confidence has taken such a humongous hit from this mentality. I have doubted myself countless times instead of going for an opportunity that I wanted to try. And even when I do put myself out there and challenge myself to reach for new heights, I still have my inner doubts, even if I do feel good about my progress and my achievements.
Imposter syndrome comes from a stem of different factors in a person’s life. Trauma and abuse can be detrimental components that instill imposter syndrome in us. Bullying is also another huge root of this problem.
A major aspect of my imposter syndrome is directly correlated to my personal experiences. For example, I come from an immigrant family, and although I am proud of how hard my family has had to work in order to get to where we are, I still feel like I don’t deserve some things. I love where I come from and I am proud of my roots and my heritage. But I feel like I don’t deserve these blessings sometimes. Coming from public school my whole life, and getting a scholarship to attend a private, Jesuit institution like Saint Louis University, makes me feel like I’m someone else.
My leadership opportunities, going to conventions and gaining positions I had not expected, are things I had worked hard to achieve. At the end of the day, I have to remind myself that it’s good to be grateful, but just because I acknowledge my blessings frequently, does not make me undeserving of them.
I can be thankful, and still be happy. I can work hard to achieve my future dreams and goals, but still feel lucky to have these current opportunities and such great people in my life.
As college students, we don’t have to give in to imposter syndrome. We can talk to loved ones and professionals about what we’re feeling, journal our spiraling thoughts and daily affirmations, and find time to be grateful and still reach for our dreams.
I will no longer let imposter syndrome take control of my life and my happiness. You don’t have to either.