Imposter Syndrome and Inner Perfectionism: How to Turn Doubt into Confidence

Jenni looks outside from inside Science Hall.

This article is part of a running series with Rowan University’s Healthy Campus Initiatives. This collaboration aims to educate students about personal well-being options. For further updates, follow @RowanHCI on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Jenni posing on the steps inside the Science Hall.

As the entrepreneur Steven Bartlett once said on a Twitter post, “You wouldn’t plant a seed and then dig it up every few minutes to see if it has grown. So why do you keep questioning yourself, your hard work and your decisions? Have patience, stop overthinking and keep watering your seed.”

Of course, doubting your abilities and success is a common feeling most of us have experienced. In fact, it’s so prevalent that it even has a name for it: imposter syndrome, which refers to the behavioral pattern of doubting one’s accomplishments, skills, and/or talents as well as having the constant fear of being exposed as a fraud (Soeiro, 2019). 

According to psychologist Dr. Loren Soeiro (2019), roughly 70% of people experience this syndrome, most of whom are women, minorities and LGBT individuals. Imposter syndrome is also common among those who are starting something new, such as attending graduate school or working a new job (Soeiro, 2019). Additionally, people with this syndrome are typically perfectionists who are overly concerned about making mistakes, failing, not knowing everything, receiving feedback or critique, and asking for help.

Although this behavioral pattern is not a psychological or medical condition, it can certainly lead to mental and emotional problems if not dealt with. Imposter syndrome can cause guilt, shame, anxiety, depression and elevated stress (Soeiro, 2019). But perhaps the worst outcome from this syndrome is low self-esteem, which can prevent us from being brave, leading us to not take chances or be hopeful about our future. 

Overall, suffering from imposter syndrome can negatively affect the way we live our lives as well as our mental and emotional well-being. But this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost; there are ways to cope. As described by psychologist Dr. Janina Scarlet (2020), the first step is to acknowledge that our self-evaluation and thoughts are a result from imposter syndrome.

Next, we must remind ourselves that we are not alone in our struggles since many people experience this syndrome, and then understand why we are feeling doubtful (Scarlet, 2020). Once we realize why we feel inadequate, we should value the big picture, meaning the specific cause that we really care about (Scarlet, 2020). Doing so will help us remind ourselves that our feelings of imposter syndrome make us become aware of what we are truly passionate about.

Lastly, it is important to talk to others about our doubts of not feeling good enough; whether it be our friend, parent, mentor, or anyone else we trust, they can give us that emotional support we need and remind us that imposter syndrome is normal. Making a list of all our accomplishments can also help us appreciate ourselves and our ability to succeed in life.

Jenni posing inside Science Hall outside the observatory.

But mostly importantly, we should realize that we are all special in our own ways and deserve the praise, attention, and care that we receive. This constant need of being perfect, comparing ourselves to others, and belittling our accomplishments will not help us in the end, especially with our confidence. Instead, we should understand that we got this position, scholarship, or any other achievement for a reason; it is simply because we are worthy.

We are better than we think we are and know more than we give ourselves credit for. It’s ok to think that we don’t fully know what we’re doing, but we should acknowledge that growing and learning throughout our lives is a normal process. Along the way, we will figure out how to overcome these moments of doubt without undermining ourselves and our confidence.

References

Scarlet, J. (2020, October 2). I Am Not Good Enough: Managing Imposter Syndrome. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-real-superheroes/202010/i-am-not-good-enough-managing-imposter-syndrome


Soeiro, L. (2019, August 2019). How to Cope With Impostor Syndrome. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/i-hear-you/201908/how-cope-impostor-syndrome

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Story by:
Jenni Necsutu, junior biochemistry major

Photos by: 
Stephanie Batista, sophomore music industry major

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