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Can Imposter Syndrome be overcome?

What is it and how can you be rid of it?

By Rolake BabaPublished 5 months ago 3 min read
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Can Imposter Syndrome be overcome?
Photo by Artem Kniaz on Unsplash

In the realm of literary brilliance, even after weaving the tapestry of eleven awe-inspiring books and being adorned with numerous prestigious awards, the iconic Maya Angelou found herself ensnared in the tendrils of persistent doubt—an unsettling suspicion that her accomplishments were not authentically earned. A comparable sentiment visited the intellectual sanctum of Albert Einstein, who, despite etching his name into the annals of scientific history, humbly referred to himself as an "involuntary swindler," questioning whether the magnitude of attention showered upon his work was genuinely warranted.

While ascending to the celestial heights of achievement embodied by Angelou and Einstein remains a rare feat, the affliction of feeling like an impostor is surprisingly common. For many, the nagging notion that their accomplishments, ideas, and skills are somehow undeserving of the spotlight proves challenging to dispel. In the quest to unravel the mystery of this unwarranted sense of insecurity, psychologist Pauline Rose Clance emerged as a pioneer. Immersed in her therapeutic endeavors, Clance observed a shared concern among her undergraduate patients—a cohort boasting high grades yet plagued by a haunting disbelief in their deservingness of university positions. Some even harbored the notion that their acceptance was a clerical error, a mistake in the grand tapestry of admissions. Drawing upon her own experiences of grappling with similar feelings during graduate school, Clance, in collaboration with colleague Suzanne Imes, bestowed upon this phenomenon a myriad of names—imposter phenomenon, imposter experience, and imposter syndrome.

The origin of the imposter syndrome was traced back to the highly accomplished individuals who, steeped in their own expertise, assumed that others possessed comparable skills. This self-perpetuating cycle spiraled into a maelstrom of self-doubt, where the validity of their accolades became a haunting question mark. Even luminaries such as Angelou and Einstein found no sanctuary in an elusive threshold of accomplishment that could quell these nagging feelings.

Imposterism, however, is not an exclusive affliction of the highly skilled. It permeates the collective psyche through a phenomenon known as pluralistic ignorance. Privately doubting ourselves while erroneously assuming that others do not share these doubts creates a pervasive environment of self-questioning. The inability to gauge the efforts, struggles, and self-doubt of our peers perpetuates a cycle of inadequacy.

The intensity of imposter feelings exacts a tangible toll, restraining individuals from sharing groundbreaking ideas and stifling their willingness to pursue opportunities where their excellence could manifest. Thus far, a remedy for this pervasive syndrome has manifested in the form of open conversation. Those grappling with imposter syndrome often shy away from seeking feedback, fearing that the confirmation of their fears is inevitable. Even when positive feedback is received, it frequently fails to assuage the persistent feelings of fraudulence.

However, a glimmer of solace emerges when individuals discover that mentors, advisors, or peers have traversed the tumultuous terrain of imposterism. The revelation that there is a shared term for these feelings becomes a catalyst for self-awareness. Armed with this awareness, individuals can combat imposter syndrome by actively collecting and revisiting positive feedback. A poignant example surfaces in the story of a scientist who habitually blamed herself for lab predicaments. Through meticulous documentation of causes, she unearthed a realization—most issues stemmed from equipment failures, prompting a recognition of her own competence amid adversity.

While the complete eradication of imposter feelings may remain elusive, the prescription for alleviation lies in fostering open conversations about academic and professional challenges. As awareness regarding the ubiquity of imposter experiences grows, it becomes imperative to engage in candid discussions, thereby empowering individuals to embrace fundamental truths: they possess innate talent, unwavering capability, and an unequivocal right to occupy their space in the tapestry of their pursuits.

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About the Creator

Rolake Baba

I am fascinated by how the human mind works, so I write about it. I believe that with the right state of mind, humans can be unstoppable. If an article I write can help someone be better at life, then my job is done.

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