Imposter Syndrome: What is it? How to over come it?

March 19, 2015

Today, Dr. Nancy Wayne delivered a presentation and workshop "Building Confidence to Overcome the Imposter Syndrome" for faculty and students who interact through the WISE organizations on campus. The presentation is available to view.  Imposter Syndrome is mostly a problem of confidence, not a clinical disorder or disease. Men and women can experience it, however it appears more prevalent in women, according to research. People held in highest esteem for their accomplishements have explained their experiences with it- even while at the top. Just because someone says they're not qualified for a position, doesn't mean they're automatically grappling with imposter syndrome.  It is characterized by:

  • Feeling like a fraud-that you'll be 'found out'
  • Feeling that your success and advancements are due to luck more than skill
  • Plagued by self-doubt
  • In order to avoid detection as a fraud, you out-prepare and out-credential everyone else-a mismatch between competence and confidence.

Some tips shared to build confidence include:

  • Get a support system in place: advisors, mentors, friends, partner, etc.
  • Make a list of strengths to remind yoruself (and others) of your accomplishments--keep an ongoing curriculum vitae
  • Remind yourself that sometimes good enough is good enough!
  • Be aware of language choices. "I was lucky to recieve....
    • an "A" in that class
    • this great job position
    • that promotion
    • this grant or accepted publication"

... instead, focus on what you did to EARN it.

This self assessment questionaire may help individuals identify factors and stratagies key to overcoming imposter syndrome.