The Struggle with Imposter Syndrome
Updated: Dec 9, 2019
By Paige Thimmesch // Nov. 15, 2019
I think I’m a fake. All the time.
There isn’t an aspect of my life where I’m comfortable about my identity: education, sports, relationships, career. Nothing. And I’ve been like this for as long as I could remember.
I first heard about imposter syndrome when I was 15 in psych class; it is defined “as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.” My teacher brought it up as an afterthought in the moment, but it became my only thought for years to come.
When I made the top seven out of 60 girls on my high school’s cross country team, I diminished my accomplishment by chalking it up to luck. I was still not athletic like everyone else. When I was accepted into Emerson College for journalism, I diminished my accomplishment by convincing myself the admission staff gave me someone else’s letter. When I am complimented, admired, pursued as a romantic interest, I diminish my likeability by rationalizing they don’t know the “real me.”
I know it’s all bullshit. The logic doesn’t add up; I’m left grasping at straws when a counterargument challenges the irrational connections of my thoughts. But I still believe that I’m a fake, even when rationality tells me otherwise.
Although imposter syndrome sounds like the newest Psychology Today trendy pop-science term, it isn’t a new feeling among women, people of color, young people, and LGBTQ people. That is not to say that anyone who does not identify within these groups do not experience imposter syndrome — imposter syndrome strikes those who have high ambition and perfectionist tendencies — but the feeling is exemplified by social and societal pressures. Finding yourself in an environment dominated by a homogeneous group different from your identity is daunting, either implicitly or explicitly telling you your story isn’t valued no matter how much work you put in to get to the success you have. It’s the internalized structures of bigotry that destroy us from the inside out, calling us frauds because traditionally we’re supposed to be outsiders.
But, thankfully, there’s hope.
Just know that you’re not alone. It’s comforting to have a community rallying behind you, telling you your experiences are valid, and imposter syndrome is no exception. Notable celebrities have expressed their struggles with imposter syndrome and self-doubt; #impostersyndrome on Twitter has hundreds of people who share their experiences with the syndrome.
Having support networks is crucial. I’ve recently opened up about my struggles with imposter syndrome with my peers and family, trying to share my anxieties instead of internalizing them. It’s lifted a burden off my shoulders, one that no one needs to carry.
Photos by Carlos Hache and by Uinverso