According to the New Yorker, Imposter syndrome can best be defined as the nagging sense of self-doubt and fraudulence despite one’s accomplishments. Even if you accomplish something amazing, you are likely to dismiss it as luck or question what you did to deserve it. Imposter syndrome is especially prevalent in minority groups or anyone who is experiencing a “first”.
I had my first bout of imposter syndrome in high school. I had just qualified for Nike Cross Nationals and Footlocker Nationals, the two most prestigious cross country invitationals in America. I was toeing the line next to all these other big names in the running world, and I couldn’t help but feel so ordinary, like there was a mix up which resulted with me on this stage. There was an immense power of rewiring my brain through simple yet powerful affirmations, such as, “I belong,” or “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t earn it.” I went on to earn all-american titles.
It is not uncommon to feel unworthy of an academic accomplishment or a job title you just earned. My theory behind why this occurs is that as we take the next step up the ladder, we suddenly step into unknown territory. We are inevitably doing something new, and our brains are apprehensive of the uncertainty that comes with.
I asked my parents for their take and experiences with imposter syndrome. My mother recently started a new job as a therapist and she reports she experiences imposter syndrome “all the time!” She says powerful affirmations help her as well. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!)
Even big-time celebrities report experiencing imposter syndrome. Tom Hanks, an actor who has won an Academy Award, said in an interview with NPR, “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’”
The first step to overcoming imposter syndrome is to recognize and challenge your own anxieties. It would probably be difficult and not very successful to fool everyone around you of your skills, especially when dealing with hard numbers, data, and other success measurement tactics.
My mother and I both find a great help in saying positive affirmations to rewire our thinking patterns. You may also try making a list of all your achievements along with the positive traits that you possess that contributed to them.
Creating an alter ego is another of my favourite techniques. The most fearless, astute, and successful version of oneself is this alter ego. Your alter ego has whatever you desire. Ask yourself, then do, what they would do. Practice stepping into their body and mind.
If anything, remember that you are not alone, that you are capable of doing everything you set your mind to.