As some of you may know, this past August I started my Master’s program in Information Sciences. That previous May I had just graduated from my Undergraduate program. And my entire senior year in that program I was applying to different Master’s programs. You may not understand where I am going with all this. Master programs are a daunting and challenging step in furthering your education. And like some of you, maybe, I had some… let’s call them, ‘interesting’ thoughts going through this process.
Basically, I was convinced that no program was going to accept me and that I was going to be rejected at every turn. Applying to graduate schools is a process. And it had me completely freaked out. And then I got accepted to my dream school! (not the one I attend now) And then I got accepted into another program! (this is the one I am in) It was surreal! I was so happy that I was going into the field I had wanted since I was in high school (this was a process in and of itself). I did the orientation, I signed up for my classes, I started one of my classes early even!
Alas, it was shortly after these events that I was hit with some more ‘interesting’ thoughts. I was starting to have some doubts. Not just some, but A LOT of doubts about what I was doing:
“I don’t belong here”, “It was just a fluke I got accepted”, “What am I going to do? I can’t do this!”, “I am so screwed.”
I felt like a fraud.
So I did what an anxiety-ridden, stressed out college student does when they don’t know what to do. I googled.
In the 1970s psychologists Suzanne Imes, Ph.D. and Pauline Rose Clance, Ph.D., described a phenomenon called Impostor phenomenon (or impostor syndrome) which “occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.” (find the article here)
Holy shit that sounds just like my ‘interesting’ thoughts! Impostor syndrome. huh.. it had an interesting name. More googling was done seeing if this was really what was going on in my head.
Yep. Impostor syndrome. It fit. I was just starting grad school, I come from a family where high achievement in education was important, and I felt like a fake, a fraud.
Here is the problem with impostor syndrome, no one talks about it. We internalize it. We try to ignore while it festers and grows in the back of our minds. I want to talk about it. So, we’re gonna talk about it.
~If you are having these thoughts, realize that you are not a fraud but just dealing with imposter syndrome. You earned your place in that grad program or on the team or whatever it is you are freaking out about.
~ Ok so this one might be a little more difficult for you but there are ways to face it head on and break its hold on you. A major way to face it is to TALK about it. Call up your best friend, your mentor, your mom. Talk to someone and tell them what is going on. When you start to recognize the thoughts you are having you will be able to start to change them. Tell them to f*** off. You got this! You have made it this far, you can keep going! You earned it.
When I started my grad program I was in a constant state of worry that someone was going to call me out and tell me to get out of grad school. But here is the truth, I worked my ass off to get where I am today. I went through so much emotional and mental shit to get through high school and my undergrad that I wasn’t going to let a few ‘interesting’ thoughts stop me from getting something I have always wanted. So, every time I felt these thoughts, these doubts creep back in I stopped and reminded myself that I earned my place in the program, that I can handle a heavier workload, that I got this! I am no expert in this but I can share with you my personal experience and what I did that helped. And I hope that this helped you if only just a little bit.
You can do anything you want. Don’t let those pesky little thoughts get in the way of you doing what you want. Below I have linked a few additional articles that talk more about imposter syndrome if any of you are curious.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever dealt with these thoughts!