Why capable people experience impostor syndrome?
Feelings of anxiety, doubt, fear of success, reminiscing around a small mistake, always wanting to spend time to make things perfectly are only some of the "symptoms" of a vicious cycle for many women who struggle with self-worth and consequently, impostor syndrome. Successful women usually experience imposter feelings the worst, and it hits their self esteem big time. The impostor phenomenon demolishes self-confidence, turns high achieving women towards self-doubt and fraudulent feelings, has high achievers feel shame of their own merits, and leads them to seek external validation.
I don't have all the answers, and I'm not sure that overcoming imposter syndrome is even possible. There are a lot of external factors which contribute to this, which is why often capable people suffer. In other words, if you're a natural genius, you're very likely to feel like a fraud. The more you know...
The good news is, I do believe that each of us is an impostor syndrome expert in our own way. The story that follows is about how Andrea experienced impostor syndrome, how it impacted her self esteem, how it overshadowed her feelings of success, exacerbated her anxiety, self doubt, and feelings of perceived fraudulence, just like it does to many graduate students. And in the end, how she grew with it, not from it.
My experience impostor feelings
My experience with Imposter Syndrome goes way back. It started well before I knew it had an official name. I always struggled with feeling like I was good enough. Back in school as a kid, I knew I was smart, but I only focused on the kids who I thought were smarter than me. If something good happened in my life, I thought it was a fluke. This mentality was a background issue throughout my teen years and my undergraduate work, but my journey with Imposter Syndrome picked up when I started graduate school.
In the autumn of 2005, I started an MFA in Costume Design. I was so excited, but within weeks I realized I made a mistake. I hated the program. It just wasn’t a good fit, them for me or me for them. We were just all wrong for each other! I lasted one semester and tried to find an exit plan before they could kick me out. Oddly, in this experience, I knew I was a talented designer and that I was good enough to be there. I don’t know where that confidence came from. But I’d always done well in the field and already had some professional credits to my name, so while I knew I was still growing as a designer, I wasn’t as bad as they were making me feel.