Understanding and Overcoming Imposter Phenomenon


Photo by Unsplash

Veronica Amador, Staff Writer

Instead of calling it imposter syndrome, I like to call it the imposter phenomenon. It makes it sound less intimidating. The impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. 

A study done at Brigham Young University found that 20% of college students experience imposter syndrome during their time in college. That’s one out of every five college students. When I read that, I almost let out a sigh of relief. I thought that I was the only one who felt like this.

Though the impostor phenomenon doesn’t have an official diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt.

The first time I ever felt like this was when I first got published. This was last June, and while everyone was happy for me and cheering for me, I felt so disconnected from the work that I did, and it felt like the name on the byline belonged to another person.

Shouldn’t one be proud of their accomplishments? Why can’t I be happy for myself? I’m more likely to say, “well, it was just luck,” rather than “look at my hard work.”

I realize that it also happens when it’s the beginning of a new semester. I plan what I will do and how I will get there. I’m not a fortune teller, so I can’t look into the future, and often things don’t go as planned. For example, last semester with Hurricane Ian, everything I wanted to do had to be put on pause.

The self-doubt just spirals out of my control, and I end up struggling to submit assignments on time, or I don’t feel content with my work, which makes it worse. To most people, I look perfectly normal. Part of the phenomenon is not letting people know you’re struggling. Which is when I believe the fear of being a fraud comes in.

You’re not a fraud. You’re just going through life and need to internalize things. So here are some tips on how I overcome this phenomenon.

First, talk about it. It helps when you can speak to someone about your feelings. I find that imposter syndrome often kicks in because I’m overwhelmed and decide that I can handle everything myself.

Talking to a friend or even going to CAPS can be an option. Just know you can’t fix everything; relying on others is okay.

Write obtainable goals. Don’t plan for the next three years of your life in one day. You never know the roads you will be walking on in the future. Instead, keep your list short and evaluate if you need to make changes. There is no harm in doing so.

Last but most importantly, remind yourself that you are worthy of celebrating your hard work.

Often, imposter syndrome makes you feel like you’re not good enough. But if you take a step back, you’ll realize you’re doing a great job. Even if that means doing positive affirmations in the morning or listening to your favorite song on repeat on your way to school, whatever helps remind you that you’re enough and doing great.