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What is Impostor Syndrome? ("There is an Imposter Among Us")
By definition, imposter syndrome is when a person doubts their abilities and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud. This psychological pattern presents itself as a set of beliefs, feelings, and behaviours. So no, it's not exactly like playing as the imposter in Among Us, but the fear of being exposed is definitely still there.
Some examples of these patterns are as follows:
Feeling like you don’t belong.
Believing your success isn’t really yours (often think of it as a result of luck or that you just happened to be at the ‘right place, right time’).
Feeling insecure about school/work performance.
Imposter syndrome can also be experienced at a small or large scale, and should be thought of as a spectrum.
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The Psychology Behind Imposter Syndrome
For starters, symptoms often reflect those who experience depression and low self-esteem. Those affected by the form of deep self-doubt tend to find themselves unable to internalize success properly. They are also likely to set high standards for themselves, experience social anxiety, and react detrimentally to social situations where they may be judged negatively. Additional psychological implications include feeling threatened of being exposed as a fraud, a high level of self-consciousness, overthinking, believing that people around them are judging them in their own heads. This can lead to being hyperaware of others and those affected with imposter syndrome will present themselves to shape others’ opinions; they may become obsessed with external perceptions of themselves. Imposter syndrome often sprouts from character traits like perfectionism as well.
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How to Fight Imposter Syndrome
The solution to imposter syndrome starts from within.
One way to start is by maintaining diaries of accomplishments or pursuing self-care with mindfulness and meditation.
Imposter Syndrome disproportionately affects all minority groups. We can begin by tackling toxic aspects of our own lives, whether they stem from culture (imposter syndrome is especially present in 1st generation students) or individual family/upbringing.
We could also progress by formally addressing our education system's 'hustle culture' which teaches students that no matter how hard they work it will never truly be enough. Students boast about how little they sleep to show off 'good work ethic', and superiors and fellow students often praise this act. This is more likely to evolve into imposter syndrome because it shows students that they always need to be doing ten times the work regardless of their stats.
Imposter Syndrome Is Similar to Burnout—Another Issue Faced by Students
Some connections between the two issues are listed below:
The feeling of needing to be the best in order to achieve scholarships, university admissions, etc. can overwhelm students.
Feeling that there is no room for error causes them to set high standards and hyper-focus on how they are perceived
Systemic changes in how students are chosen for university admissions, scholarships, and more should change. We should re-evaluate standardized testing as a whole as well, perhaps by accepting equal number of applicants from variety of backgrounds and focusing more on the individual than their accomplishments (qualitative qualifications vs. quantitative qualifications).
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While imposter syndrome is not DSM recognized, it is known as a deep intellectual struggle that predominately effects minorities and low-income students. Take steps to practice mindfulness, and regularly remind yourself that you are worthy of your external successes.
Mullangi, S., & Jagsi, R. (2019). Imposter Syndrome. JAMA, 322(5),
Slank, S. (2019). Rethinking the Imposter Phenomenon. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice,
22(1), 205–218. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10677-019-09984-8
Kolligian Jr., J., & Sternberg, R. J. (1991). Perceived Fraudulence in Young Adults: Is There an
“Imposter Syndrome”? Journal of Personality Assessment, 56(2), 308.
Article Author: Vanessa Wong
Article Editors: Stephanie Sahadeo, Olivia Ye