Throughout my tenure of graduate school, which will soon be coming to an end (finally), there's one uneasy feeling that has always been in the back of my mind telling me I'm in the wrong field or that I'm not good enough; that feeling is known as impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that, "reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful." The term was invented by Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.
Throughout my time in graduate school pursuing my Master of Social Work degree, I have experienced bouts of impostor syndrome, particularly at my internship. Even though results indicate that I am doing well and I've made progress in the last nine months, I still feel like a complete fraud and feel like I don't belong.
In an article "Feel like a fraud?" from the American Psychological Association (APA), the statement, "Though the impostor phenomenon isn't an official diagnosis listed in the DSM, psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt. Impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression."
Impostor syndrome is common for people who take on new challenges, such as graduate school or begin a new job where they pressure themselves to achieve their highest potential with a mind of perfectionism that allows for little to no mistakes. I am of a mindset where I have trouble accepting the fact that I'm just a human who sometimes makes mistakes. I also falsely believe that I must be good at everything I am learning and that I need to be competent immediately. This is, as mentioned, attributable to anxiety and depression.
According to the APA, there are ways a person can challenge impostor syndrome by doing the following:
Talking to mentors
Talking to someone you admire and trust can help you see clarity and remind you of where you are now vs where you started.
Recognizing your skills and expertise
If you can, get involved with an activity that affirms you are good at what you do, such as tutoring or leading a group.
Remembering what you do well
Write down a list of the things you're good at and write about your accomplishments and your talents. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves of what we are good at.
Realizing (and accepting) that no one is perfect
It's important to remind yourself that you are not perfect and that nobody else is either. Celebrate your achievements instead of constantly critiquing yourself on what you could have done better.
Reframing (changing your thinking)
Reframing can be difficult, but it is doable. Set realistic goals for yourself and keep track of your accomplishments. Once you see that you're capable and are successful, your line of thinking will begin to change.
Talking to someone who can help
Experiencing impostor syndrome is draining and sometimes talking to someone you confide in and trust is helpful you change your thinking or coming up with coping skills. Seeking out a therapist who specializes in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can be extremely beneficial in helping you overcome impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is a major downer and frustrating, but once you become aware of it and begin putting skills and tools to use that can help you overcome distorted thinking patterns, which is what impostor syndrome is derived from, you won't feel like an impostor anymore - because you're not.