“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”Deuteronomy 31:6
DISCLAIMER: I am not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or trained mental health professional of any kind. Everything I write is based on my own personal experience with coming to terms with my differences and adjusting to how my brain works. Please do not take my word as gospel of any kind – these posts are only meant to help further open the dialogue around mental health and dispelling the stigma around mental illnesses and disabilities.
We all have those moments when we have that deep, unsettling thought that permeates every part of our being: “What if I don’t belong here?”.
This thought is compounded by additional anxious, creeping thoughts like “How many people can tell I’m a fraud?”
“How long can I last before I’m found out?”
“How will I be able to measure up to my more skilled peers?”
These thoughts surround and choke you, like a snake constricting around your neck until they are all you can think about, and eventually, they bleed into your daily interactions and efforts. This mindset is not uncommon, despite what your mind tries to tell you, and it affects many people around the world. It is most commonly referred to as “Imposter Syndrome.”
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
According to an article in Healthline, imposter syndrome, also called perceived fraudulence, “involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments.” I like the use of the word “despite” in this article, as most of the time, it is the most educated, qualified, and skilled individuals that feel imposter syndrome the greatest.
Imposter syndrome is not a rare mindset to fall into, even if people might try to tell you otherwise. An article in Time magazine reports that “an estimated 70% of people experience these impostor feelings at some point in their lives”.
So, even though imposter syndrome makes you feel isolated and alone in your experiences, the ironic fact is that more people have experienced this mindset than those who have not. While this might not be a huge comfort, it can help you to realize that your feelings of inadequacy are not valid if those around you, who seem to be “more accomplished,” also feel like frauds.
My Experience With Imposter Syndrome
As someone who was homeschooled growing up, I did not have anyone to compare myself with in terms of academic performance unless you count my little brother, who was three years younger than me, so it did not count.
It was only when I started taking outside classes during high school that I finally started worrying about how I measured up to my peers. In retrospect, I was much harder on myself than I had any right to be, especially since I was not receiving accommodations for my anxiety and ADHD. However, as a 17-year-old who saw the other kids in my classes put in barely any effort and get straight As while I had to work endlessly to scrape by a B or high C, it was very hard not to feel inferior.
I started to find my rhythm senior year of high school when I became a dual-credit student at my local community college. But that sense of inferiority followed me to this new place of learning, and it was driving me crazy. There was always a classmate doing better than me, understanding the material faster than I did, and generally being an all-around better student.
But eventually, I forced myself to evaluate exactly why I believed I wasn’t as good or qualified as my peers in my classes and the Honors College, and every reason I could come up with fell flat when I considered them. Finally, I realized that I likely would not be where I was if I had not earned it, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to stay there if I didn’t belong.
Imposter syndrome, at its core, is a bit of a paradox, as it tries to tell you that you alone are the one whose work isn’t good enough to have gotten you where you are, when most of the time, those around you in similar positions did the exact same amount of work to get their positions.
How to Deal With Imposter Syndrome
Now that you know what imposter syndrome is and have learned a little about how it affected my life, I would like to give you all some tips for how to deal with the thoughts that come with having imposter syndrome.
ONE: Put yourself in someone else’s shoes – if you were not you but someone else evaluating you, would you still think you are a fraud who doesn’t deserve to be where you are?
TWO: Listen to what others say – people who tell you that you are talented, skilled, and capable have no reason to lie to you. They see talent and uniqueness in you. Let this motivate and uplift you.
THREE: While valid and important, your perspective is only sometimes the reality of the situation. Just because you view yourself as inadequate or unworthy doesn’t automatically make it true.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and maybe even feel better about some of the imposter syndrome you feel or have felt in your daily life. I just want to leave you with a small reminder – You are capable, you are strong, and you are NOT a fraud. God has equipped you for every good work, and that means you cannot help but shine His light with whatever you do.
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