The word “imposter” (also spelled as “impostor”) has become quite the buzzword to use in the past year, especially with the growing popularity of “Among Us,” a game many people have played throughout the pandemic. The imposter in “Among Us” is the bad guy on the spaceship. It blends in with the rest of the crew members, killing other crew members, pretending to complete tasks and running around the ship as everyone panics over the ship being “sabotaged.” The crew members then fight hard to discuss everyone’s whereabouts until they come to a vote on who they think is suspicious. They can either vote out the imposter, or the wrong crew member off the spaceship. The game ends when the imposter is found and voted off the ship by the remaining crew members, or if the imposter succeeds in eliminating their crewmates, taking full command of the ship.
This idea seems simple and fun within the game, but it can also relate to our real lives. We work hard in our lives to achieve success, whether it is passing an exam, winning a tennis match, or getting a job with a company people dream of working for. However, there can be a moment in these successes filled with doubt and uncertainty. As a result, imposter syndrome can stem from these doubts, where we reach the mindset that our success was based on luck rather than skill. While imposter syndrome is mainly attributed to women, psychologist Audrey Ervin reports in TIME magazine that, “Today, impostor syndrome can apply to anyone who isn’t able to internalize and own their successes.” With this doubt also comes a fear that is shown in the “Among Us” game. Much like how fellow crewmates can vote “suspicious” crew members off the ship in the hopes of catching the imposter of the game, people with imposter syndrome fear being outed as a “fraud,” undeserving of their success, with the ship being the valuable connections they form around them.
Imposter syndrome was not easy for me to identify at first— until it became a buzzword I started to hear used by my classmates. It defined some of the feelings that I had towards my academics in high school and college. High school brought the pressures of getting into a good college, achieving a good SAT score, while being surrounded by high achieving students who took multiple honors courses and fought their way up the class ranking system. I found myself fighting to get into exclusive honors courses and leadership positions within clubs that seemed to be reserved for the top 20 students in my class. I came into college with the intention of focusing on myself and my own mini successes, but attending as an engineering student came with a new wave of pressure to pass classes, stay competitive with my peers and stay on track for graduation as close as I could. Beyond academics, there is an even bigger pressure to stay social, stay confident and put my best foot forward as I try to surround myself with people who will also support me along my journey.
These challenges brought doubt to some of the hard work I put into my classes and even within my own social life. In my academics, it was hard to admit that I was struggling in certain classes where peers around me believed the class was “easy” to them, and receiving one bad grade after another after studying for hours just left me extremely discouraged. Socially, it was frustrating for me to try to find people to relate to and connect with, despite the fact that I was attending social events, joining clubs and talking to many new faces. Unfortunately, that connection was lost somewhere, as those individuals I believed I was close to found “better” connections with other people. Often, these “better” connections seemed better than me, more talented than me, smarter than me, and overall more attractive— there was no question to why they were surrounded by so many people who wanted to support them and connect with them. On the other hand, I felt I was doing something horribly wrong, and I felt like I just wasn’t doing enough. I was nothing more than an imposter myself, and there was something wrong that other people could see that I couldn’t. This feeling was exhausting to deal with, and it was time for me to find a way to put the power back into my own hands.
There are multiple ways to deal with imposter syndrome and the mindset that it brings, ultimately letting you take control of how you think of yourself and what you have accomplished. Reframing that mindset makes it much easier to manage. Failures can turn into lessons. Constructive criticism is criticism, but it could be easier to think of it as feedback. Making a list of your accomplishments is also a valuable tool that helps you visually see all of the things that you’ve worked for and accomplished. It is also a valuable tool to use for essays and applications in the future. Reaching out to your circle of friends and family members, no matter how big or small, is a good way to find support and comfort for this imposter mindset. Chances are there are others around you that also experience imposter syndrome. Starting an open conversation about imposter syndrome is a powerful way to face it head on.
It is okay to be unsure of how to progress with these doubts in your mind. It is okay to be unsure about what to do next. Taking a break from working hard is not a bad thing, and it is okay to keep pushing forward if you are ready to do so. Know that investing time and effort into your work doesn’t make you an imposter at all. Be proud of all that you’ve accomplished so far to get to this point in your life— I promise, you’ve earned it.