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Stop with the Impostor Syndrome

So you’ve decided to go back to school. Your friends and family have probably shared their opinions, but what about your inner voice? You’re probably asking yourself things like:

  • “Who thought starting this program was a good idea?”
  • “You’re going back to school at your age?”
  • “How can you juggle getting a degree with the rest of your life?”
  • “Do you really have what it takes to do this?”

If this sounds familiar, good news: you’re not alone. Many people have these kinds of doubts when they’re about to step out of their comfort zone and take on a new challenge.

Psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Clance coined the term “impostor syndrome” in 1978. They described it as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” While these people “are highly motivated to achieve,” they also “live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.”

I can personally attest to this. I procrastinated in submitting my application for almost two months, and now as I turn in each required assignment, my inner voice shouts words of self-doubt even more loudly. Although I revel in reading, researching and writing, I am still crushed under the weight of feeling like I have no business pursuing this degree. I worry about devoting so much of my personal time and financial resources to this endeavor, only to fail.

How do you overcome impostor syndrome? The first step is to take a deep breath and consider the facts. Write a list of your skills and accomplishments and read it out loud. Brag about yourself. Consider all that you have accomplished so far in your life.

Next, let the fearful feelings wash over you. Instead of repressing or ignoring those feelings, feel them thoroughly. Confront your doubts head-on. Only then can you let them go.

As you confront your impostor syndrome, you examine all facets of your fear. If you are concerned about time management, take the time to inventory your activities. Pursuing a degree will mean prioritizing your time and making sacrifices. Letting go of certain commitments will lessen your burden and decrease your stress. If I’m concerned about financing my degree, I will need to take the same approach to my budget and search for ways to supplement my income.

But it’s the last step to overcoming impostor syndrome that’s most important – never give up. Earning a degree will be difficult at times. Life will happen and you will face adversity along the path to bettering your life. When this happens, keep moving towards your goal. Ask for help if you need it and surround yourself with the people who love and support you the most. Keep going, just like me. We are in this together.