Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Imposter/Impostor Syndrome

According to Caltech Couselling center, Imposter/Impostor Syndrome is "a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in the face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and the feelings of intellectual fraudulence". .

In my own words, imposter syndrome is that feeling of being inadequate, less deserving, not as smart as others even though there exists enough evidence to prove otherwise. Take for instance, if one gets the highest grade in a project and feels less deserving of that grade even though s/he knows they worked really hard on the project. This could be termed imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is caused by several reasons. I'm not into psychology or any form of human studies so I'll speak from experience. From the mentoring seminars I've been to recently, one common cause of imposter syndrome is the people/society one lives in. If as a person, your support system, the people around you and your society continually term you a failure or someone less deserving than others, it's easy to think of one's-self as being inadequate despite achievements and rewards that show otherwise.  Imagine telling your friends that you were selected to receive an award and you get a response like "You? What criteria was used to choose you". Or telling friends that your paper was accepted into a top conference in your area with a low acceptance rate of about 17%, and their response is "Really? It's likely there were few submissions this year". Comments like these are likely to trigger imposter syndrome in many people.

How to deal with imposter syndrome?. As stated earlier, there are several causes of imposter syndrome. Identifying the underlying cause (if possible) and dealing with it could help. In the case of negative people/family/friends around us, dealing with imposter syndrome caused by this negativity, will be to build a support system of true supporters; people that always encourage you as a person and praise/celebrate you when the need arises. If one's support system, family and friends keep making negative comments, removing such people from one's life can help. Or not discussing success stories with them could also help. As it stands, I only tell my success stories to people that ALWAYS celebrate me and encourage me.

I've learned from recent seminars and experience with people that many people feel inadequate or have self doubt in one way or the other; I'm talking about people that are experts in their various fields. This gives me some hope that I am not alone in this battle.

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