Imposter syndrome: what it is and how to deal with it
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After a lot of unsuccessful interviews for summer internships, I pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I would receive yet another rejection email soon after my latest interview. So, when I got the email through saying that I got the job, I was blindsided. Many people say that they’re shocked or surprised when things go their way in life, but I genuinely didn’t believe that I got the internship, even with the evidence literally emboldened, in black and white, a mere few inches from my face. I thought: "This can’t be right. They must’ve sent this email to the wrong candidate. There’s no way I actually did well in that interview. Besides, the position was super competitive – surely someone else is better qualified for the role than me? They’re the ones that deserve it."
Image Credit: Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay.My inability to accept that I was capable of succeeding at something is a trait that I’ve had most of my adult life, and it has a name: imposter syndrome. Jivan Dempsey, a life coach, describes imposter syndrome as "a psychological fear of both failure and success". Imposter syndrome is rooted in self-doubt, but whilst this may pass for some people, others continue to question their own success and, in extreme cases, even consider themselves to be a ‘fraud’. Although imposter syndrome affects people in varying degrees, research does suggest that 70% of us will experience it at some point in their life. If so many people have experienced imposter syndrome, why is it barely talked about? Imposter syndrome is intimately linked with other people’s perceptions of us. If somebody is preoccupied with the world’s perception of them, then that surely, in some cases, extends to a fear of seeming weak and incapable if we talk openly about our vulnerabilities. Imposter syndrome is like wearing a mask that, more than anything, we are absolutely terrified of slipping. Ultimately, though, there is no mask. We just feel disassociated with the person that is being presented to the world compared to the seemingly inadequate person inside. With the high expectations that students face when it comes to high grades, socialising and obtaining that perfect CV, the chances are that either you know someone or you yourself will have experienced imposter syndrome at some point in your life. Dempsey has identified some of the most common indicators of imposter syndrome: An inability to accept praise Although some people reject praise and compliments in a show of humbleness and modesty, others reject it because they genuinely believe that they don’t deserve it. They might attribute getting that first not due to their own tireless nights in the library, but entirely to the work of a lecturer, or a friend who helped them proof-read their assignment. For Dempsey, this is a form of self-sabotage. He suggests that people deflect compliments and praise because they "feel anxious that success brings more responsibility and advancement" which they feel they "didn’t deserve in the first place." Although this attempt at limiting one’s self is an act of self-preservation, it is also misguided because it stops you from reaching the potential that you know you’re capable of. You’re a perfectionist A common theme in these symptoms is being your own worst enemy. Many people that suffer from imposter syndrome set themselves unattainable and often impossible standards. I have experienced this myself - I’d work a lot harder than was healthy, and rather than being proud of what I achieved, I was bitter about what I didn’t achieve.
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