About a year into my PhD program, I was at a party at one of my professors’ homes. I was sitting in a group of women that included fellow students and the Associate Dean of Arts & Sciences. While we were chatting, the Associate Dean mentioned that sometimes it was very difficult for her to put out an article or document she’d been working on because she felt like it would prove she was a fraud and didn’t really know what she was doing. She said, “You know that Imposter Syndrome! It’s always out to get you!” I was absolutely stunned. I thought it was just me. I thought I was the only person on the planet who ever felt that way. Then I got another shock when the other women started nodding their heads in agreement and sharing their own stories of Imposter Syndrome. In that moment, an enormous weight lifted off of me. I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. I had a tribe.
Imposter Syndrome affects a large portion of the population but women and minorities struggle most often. While it is very common, it’s not something that’s discussed a lot. Much like I did back in graduate school, people feel isolated and ashamed of their feelings. They think it’s TRUE that they’re frauds. They’ve just gotten lucky in life. They’ve just known the right people or someone was being nice to them when they got their dream job. People who struggle with Imposter Syndrome never accept the credit for their successes but are quick to take ownership of their mistakes. All of these thoughts serve to keep Imposter Syndrome in the dark places of our lives, but shining a light on our thoughts is one of the best ways to move away from Imposter Syndrome and on to the life you truly want.