Imposter Syndrome

Good morning sun-bathing Jumbos!

I hope the beautiful warm weather yesterday put everyone in a good mood and helped alleviate some of the midterm-related stress.  There is nothing like the feeling of warm sunlight on your skin after a long winter to remind you that the world is still a beautiful place – even when midterms are ugly.

Today’s post is about something that I think many of us feel, but can’t always put a name to.  Have you ever sat in class and felt like everyone around you knows all of the material and is so much smarter and more prepared to answer questions than you? Or that everyone here is doing all of this cool and amazing stuff and you can’t even believe they let you into Tufts? Or the people at work are so good at their job while you’re fooling everyone into believing you know what you’re doing?  It turns out that this feeling of inadequacy and disingenuity has a name – imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.”  While people of all ages and in all settings can experience it, it is especially common among high-achieving young adults in a university setting – which unfortunately means us.

So how do we deal with it? How do we shake that annoyingly persistent feeling that we just aren’t good enough?

One of the most helpful pieces of advice I have heard regarding this is to not compare your inside self to other people’s outside self.  In other words, we are dealing with our own internal monologues ridden with self doubt and comparing those to the carefully cultivated images other people portray, when in all likelihood they are facing many of the same internal battles we are. Realizing that everyone deals with self doubt, and that most people are not as put together as they seem, is immensely helpful in realizing that you aren’t as separate from them as you feel.

Being aware of and addressing automatic thinking is really useful too.  If you find yourself thinking, without even meaning to, “I don’t deserve to be here,” or “I’m not smart enough for this,” train your brain to catch yourself and try to reverse the message.  When you have those thoughts, counter them with – “Yes you are supposed to be here, you are just as strong, and smart, and capable as everyone else.”  Eventually, you’ll have fewer of those automatic thoughts.

Finally, never underestimate the power of faking it til you make it.  Starting a new job or embarking on a more difficult class naturally comes with some anxiety and a lack of confidence.  That’s ok.  But acting like you have your shit together, even if you don’t internally feel like it, becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – eventually you’re so used to portraying confidence that you actually become confident.

So remember lovely Jumbos, in the wise words of Kathryn Stockett: “You is kind, you is smart, and you is important.”

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