One day I just know that everyone will find me out — they will come to realize I am a complete fraud. I have no place mentoring moms in college and I certainly have no place in front of a college English class. I can’t possibly have earned my degree because I am capable, but because I got lucky.
While you may not have ever said this exact thing, you might have thought:
- I am only doing well because I am lucky
- One day everyone will realize I have been faking it in college
- My good grades are for reasons other than hard work
- I am an impostor
If you have, you are not alone. Many people, especially women, experience what is known as the Impostor Syndrome or phenomenon. I never realized it was a real, legitimate issue until I went through it myself. I have struggle several times over the course of my college career with this syndrome, often disregarding my ability with sheer luck. One article from the American Psychological Association defines the Impostor Syndrome as something that, “occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.” Have you felt this way? I know I have.
So what can you and I do? Here are some tips on overcoming the Impostor Syndrome
1. Stop expecting to be perfect, you aren’t. And neither is the student in the seat next to you. As moms in college we are, most of the time, overachievers. In some ways we don’t really have a choice because we have to overachieve in order to stay on top of our “game” so to speak. And while there is NOTHING wrong with being an overachiever, there is something wrong with feeling like a failure if you don’t get 100% on every assignment you do. If you were perfect you wouldn’t need to be in school, would you? So try to cut yourself some slack in the perfection department. And when it concerns how well the person next to you is doing, don’t compare yourself to them because you aren’t in their shoes as they aren’t in yours. Instead, gauge your success upon your own situation, allowing yourself room to learn and grow.
2. Talk with your mentor. I once spoke with my previous mentor about this topic. I sat in her office feeling like a guilty criminal who had been hiding from the authorities, only to find out she had experienced the same thing! Here is this woman I looked up to who I knew was incredibly brilliant and yet, she had previously felt the same way I did at that moment. Your mentor is likely to have felt the same way and might have some great advice on overcoming those feelings. If not, the least he or she might be able to do is reassure you of how well you are doing.
3. Make a list. When you start to feel this way, take the time to not only write down how you feel but also compile of list of things that you consider achievements. From major to minor, write it down. Try to think back on those achievements and how you were successful.
4. Fake it til you make it. So cliche, right? Well, there are some feelings you just can’t escape easily. I say, fake it til you make it…even though you really aren’t faking it. Just keep moving forward. Eventually you will get to a point where you go from saying, “I am an impostor” to “Hey, I earned this degree!” It just might take some time. More importantly, when I say fake it til you make it I mean, try to change your thought process. Try getting up every day and telling yourself “I am smart, capable, and deserving of my success.” It may take some time but sometimes we just need to rewire our minds!
5. Help those a few steps behind you. Not necessarily because they are beneath you but because helping them may help you see how far you have come. If you were faking it you would not be able to get them through something like learning to write an essay or solving certain equations. That’s the thing about cheating (or faking), you learn nothing. Being capable in your discipline can truly help reinforce your own self-confidence.
Have you ever felt this way? I would love to hear how you overcame it. I would also love to hear from anyone still struggling!
American Psychological Association: http://www.apa.org