Have you ever stepped into a new setting – perhaps a class, an interview or a meeting – and thought to yourself, “Do I deserve to be here?”
I think we have all heard this tiny voice that exudes doubt and fear at one point or another. It oh-so-conveniently makes its appearance in high-pressure situations and even after exciting moments of triumph and success. It makes us second-guess our accomplishments and question our abilities, and it turns us into grade-A overthinkers. Picture the ultra-sassy cartoon version of Lizzie McGuire that echoed Lizzie’s emotions and concerns – except less fun and not animated.
Get this: There is actually a name for this psychological phenomenon. It’s called the Impostor Syndrome. I first learned about the condition in a leadership class when studying abroad in Spain, and at first, I thought it sounded like a made-up concept or a disease designed for a Saturday Night Live skit. However, upon further discussion and research, I realized this feeling is not a fluke – professionals and psychologists alike note the validity of the Impostor Syndrome.
According to Forbes, the term “Impostor Syndrome” was coined in the 80s, and about 70 percent of people suffer from the phenomenon. The Impostor Syndrome occurs when people fear their achievements are not a true product of themselves – they solely attribute their success to good fortune and being in the right place at the right time.
So, why does this matter?
As a soon-to-be 20-something collegiette, it seems like my generation glorifies the idea of “having it together” and idolizes anyone who seemingly “has it all.” First of all, what does this even mean? If “having it all” means having perfect grades, an overbooked social life, the most impressive résumé known to mankind, a successful love life and a crystal-clear idea of what one wants to do with his or her life, I think it’s safe to say nobody really has it all – and definitely not all at once.
Even people who seemingly “have it all together” on the outside are most likely familiar with the internal voice that invokes fear of being “found out” as a fraud or impostor. In fact, an article from Quartz notes that many celebrities, artists, leaders and activists have admitted to feeling like impostors – including Tina Fey, Maya Angelou and even American author John Steinbeck.
The New York Times bestselling book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg points to the Impostor Syndrome as a reason many women back out of leadership opportunities in the workplace and beyond. In her book, Sandberg, a Facebook executive and advocate for women in leadership, encourages young women to stop discounting their accomplishments and character qualities that make them who they are.
It’s not always easy to push aside the fears and doubts that fill our head, especially when we are diving into a new chapter of our lives. Nonetheless, we must let go of the desire to “have it all” and silence the negative voice that makes us feel less than what we are.
I think it is important for everyone, including my fellow collegiettes and Gators, to know it’s pretty normal to have feelings of doubt and to feel like we have made it to a certain position or point in a career or endeavor simply because you had the right connections or you had a lucky moment.
We should believe in luck and fate and all those great things – but most importantly, we should believe in ourselves.
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