What am I doing here? I’m not supposed to be here. I’m never going to be good enough. I’m not smart enough to be here or to do this.
If you ever uttered these statements, or if you’ve ever felt inadequate at a position or in class, chances are you suffer from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is defined as a lack of confidence, anxiety and doubts about your achievements.
Imposter syndrome can affect anyone regardless of sex, race and age and it’s something people face when they can’t internalize their accomplishments regardless of how successful they may be.
So where does this internalized self-doubt come from? To some extent, it has its origins in the ways we grow up. For example, if you were always deemed the “smart” child in your family, then when you suddenly don’t live up to that label because you’re struggling to pass a class, then you may feel like a fraud. Even worse, you may feel like you don’t have the opportunity to make mistakes or fail because you’d “let people down.”
Students who attend top-tier universities and may feel like they have to prove their success in order to believe they deserve to be there. Not only are they facing internal pressures to succeed, but also they're facing external pressures, from those who would expect them to fail, so they often feel like they have no choice but to succeed.
This mindset is extremely toxic because it feeds on the insecurities of the person and leaves them fearing failure and downplaying success, chalking it up to “luck,” but never feeling like they’ve truly earned it. You don’t have to live with this — combating the imposter syndrome takes changing your mindset and tackling the issues that arise within yourself.
For starters, failing doesn’t mean you're a failure. Most people equate failing with not being smart enough or talented enough when it literally is just a stepping stone to success. Imposter syndrome makes it feel like every failure is a result of your incompetence when it’s really just a pathway for you to build resilience and work harder toward your goal. So step one to eliminating this mentality is being okay with failure, but not being content with it.
Secondly, comparisons suck. Don’t compare what you are doing to what others are doing. Take it from me, I come from a high-achieving family and oftentimes I feel as though I’m not good enough or smart enough to ever reach the level of success my older cousins achieved, but I realized I’m not them and that my path to success does not have to be parallel to theirs.
The path to happiness is owning that you are your own person and that no one is like you or has the unique experiences that you have. An important thing to note is also that people paint themselves in the best light especially in academics, they’ll tell you the ups of their journey but never tell you the negatives of how they got there.
One last point: It helps to channel your fears and use them as weapons in order to push yourself to the next level. If you’re afraid to try something because you might fail — do it anyway. What if you fail? You get back up and you try again.
Thomas Edison tested thousands of lightbulbs before he found one that worked. So you have no excuse to be scared to fail or scared to push yourself. You’re smart, talented and deserving of every opportunity you get. Don’t take it for granted and don’t minimize your accomplishments.