by Amy Baez, Staff Writer, November 2021
I shouldn’t be here. What if I don’t meet my teachers’ and family’s expectations? Everyone is so much better than me. Do I deserve to be here? How did I even get accepted?
These pervasive thoughts of insecurity are common symptoms of imposter syndrome, an issue many students struggle within higher education institutions.
Director of Counseling Jen Hamilton said, “imposter syndrome is an unconscious belief that we aren’t as good as people think we are. The fear of people really knowing and seeing who we are will make them think we don’t belong here.” Imposter syndrome, or fraud syndrome, is commonly found in rigorous environments, like jobs and schools, where one has to apply and get accepted. Once accepted, however, you cannot help but compare yourself to other people and their accomplishments.
A sense of fraudulence can appear, which undervalues one’s success, even though their achievements are valid. DEI (The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Fellow Mariah Oates said, “When we look around, we see people who are wildly qualified and excellent at what they do. People with imposter syndrome are also all of those things, but we are riddled with self-doubt. It’s just a natural part of being human.”
Imposter syndrome manifests itself into the anxiety of having to present a certain way to please others. The worry of not fitting someone else’s standards affects students negatively as it takes up energy both inside and outside of school.
Imposter syndrome has many factors behind it which differ for every person. This detrimental mindset is prevalent in high-achieving students and athletes.
At school, it feels as if we are required to meet certain expectations. Brooke Lukasevicz (Class III) said, “At Nobles, there is a certain type of person you have to be to fit in, and it depends a lot on being athletic, smart, and sociable.” It can be hard to keep up with this idea of being the “perfect academic”, although we believe our peers fit it.
These thoughts surface for Lukasevicz during her varsity volleyball practices and games. “There are times when I make one mistake and think I shouldn’t be on this team. I should quit. I don’t know why I’m playing.” Lukasevicz said.
High achieving minorities are also more prone to experiencing imposter syndrome. Melanie Morales Alvarez (Class II) said, “Part of it [imposter syndrome] is being a person of color at Nobles where you already feel like you don’t belong.” Women and BIPOC have an added pressure of representing their group’s ability in an environment lacking minorities. The result of working harder to prove one’s self-worth is frequent because of the doubt in self-efficacy.
Oates has gone through encounters with imposter syndrome as a new faculty member. “I struggled with imposter syndrome coming in as a Black woman because I felt like I was going to be judged by my resume and not live up to its expectation.”
Alejandra Mendez (Class I) said, “As a senior, I expected it to get worse with college-related things, but I’ve been able to distance myself from that at this point. I’ve been here long enough to recognize that everyone experiences imposter syndrome, so it’s not a “me” thing.” Recognizing that a large part of the student body, and even faculty members, is enduring this situation can significantly help combat imposter syndrome.
One great way to overcome imposter syndrome is reevaluation. Oates said, “Think of what you appreciate of yourself. Celebrate yourself and your accomplishments.” Hamilton also said, “Acknowledge that everybody makes mistakes, and in fact, those are the times in your life you really achieve and learn the most.”
Talking to others can help tackle those moments of doubt as well. Expressing one’s thoughts to confidantes can be beneficial. DEI is a great place to go when feeling a sense of not belonging.” DEI implements new ways to make students feel valued and recognized. You deserve to be here, so we are going to make sure your voice is heard.” Oates said.
Recognizing one’s self-worth is easier said than done, but everyone is here for a reason, and each contribution and voice matter. Many people feel as if they are faking to be at the same level as others, but Hamilton said, “Challenge yourself to be human and focus on connecting and learning. Try to recognize those fears as chatter in your mind that other people struggle with.”