To be honest, high school wasn’t really “my thing”. I was never consider studious or nerdy (boy, has that ever changed) and to be quite honest I didn’t enjoy school. My mother always encouraged good grades so regardless of how I felt I always tried to achieve at least a passing grade. Teachers would always say “if only she applied herself” but my classmates saw things a lot differently. I was often referred to as stupid and was frequently criticized for asking questions. This really did a number on my self-confidence. Eventually, I stopped asking questions and started skipping school.
In my last year of high school I really pulled up my socks though. University had always been a goal of mine and there was no way I was going to get in if I didn’t try at all. I became more involved in school and as I frequently put it, I “luckily” passed admission standards and got accepted. (As a side note- I would never advise or encourage anyone to do this. If I could go back, I would have completely engaged in elementary and high school. I now see how valuable my classes were and the skills I could have developed earlier).
University was a HUGE adjustment for me. I didn’t have the self-discipline or study skills I needed which made it difficult to grasp the idea of being the conductor of my own education. But the worst thing in all of this was the lack of confidence I felt in my abilities. I was constantly thinking that I had only been accepted to University because of some fluke in the system. I feared that one day, somehow, the administration office was going to discover this mistake and I would be kicked out of school. I developed intense test anxiety and it really hindered my performance. I would often look around at my classmates and think about how smart they must be. I didn’t want to raise my hand in class because I was terrified they would find out that I wasn’t as smart as them.
I felt completely alone in this until the other day when a colleague of mine brought it up. Apparently (go figure) I wasn’t ever alone in that feeling. A lot of people feel that way. In fact – it’s an actual syndrome called “Imposter Syndrome”. Imposter Syndrome was first described by Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s. It’s characterized by feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and often occurs among high achievers. Individuals will often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than ability. These feelings can often lead to anxiety and depression.
So, what can we do to manage these negative feelings? One thing that can be very helpful is to think of the value that you bring. For me, working with mindyourmind has really helped me to find value in myself. At mindyourmind, each staff member has a different background (Clinical, Education, Web design, etc.). What’s great about this team is that there’s a general understanding that each person brings their own valuable lens. This is something that can definitely translate to all of you! No one else has lived your life. No one else has had the exact same experiences as you have. You provide a unique perspective to every activity you engage in.
Sometimes a change in perspective can be beneficial. We often tend to focus on the negatives (at least I know I do). When someone compliments me, it resonates a lot less than when I receive a negative comment. This is something that really can contribute to the development of low self-esteem. It’s important to acknowledge your accomplishments and take pride in them. Another thing that really contributes to low self-esteem is comparing ourselves with others. These comparisons can cripple us and cloud our judgement. Just because someone else has accomplished something you find appealing doesn’t mean that your accomplishments are any less valuable.
If you’re feeling like a fraud, whether it’s in school, work or any other accomplishment, you may have achieved, I hope that you’re able to find solace in the fact that you aren’t alone. And please, don’t let anyone make you feel negative about those accomplishments. Check out the links below if you’re interested in learning more about Imposter Syndrome!
- Feel like a fraud? by the American Psychological Association
- Afraid Of Being ‘Found Out?’ Overcome Impostor Syndrome by Margie Warrell on Forbes.com
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