I don’t think I’m bragging when I call myself a moderately accomplished student. I maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout high school. I was accepted to Elon University. I’m working on undergraduate research and will graduate in May, hopefully cum laude. With luck, I’ll have some kind of job or internship lined up by then. I’ve survived five semesters as a member of The Pendulum staff — no small feat.
Still, I spend many of my days feeling like an imposter.
There’s a very real phenomenon called imposter syndrome, coined in 1978 by U.S. psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes. According to the New York Times, for them it meant a feeling of falseness “in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”
For me, it means constantly fearing that I’m not as intelligent as my grades and test scores say.
When I raise my hand to answer a question in class, I’m surprised by what comes out of my mouth. When a fellow member of an organization asks me what I think about some wording, I’m shocked when I’m able to succinctly and effectively describe my opinion on it and how it could be improved.
I’m continuously astounded that what sounds to me like frantic babbling sounds coherent and, dare I say, moderately intelligent to my classmates, friends and coworkers.
Who am I to know these things? Who am I to be answering this question or to be stating my opinion on this?
Despite evidence to the contrary, sometimes I still think I’m here by luck. Sometimes I wonder how I’ve made it this far without someone realizing that I have no idea what I’m doing. I haven’t been given anything I haven’t worked for, but I’m not always sure I’ll be able to live up to the standards of Elon and the organizations I’m involved in.
So, yes, I feel incompetent a lot of the time. Part of that is just me being hard on myself, but sometimes, I really wonder how I’ve made it this far. I’m starting to think that this feeling that only luck and chance have gotten me to where I am is just part of being an adult. I might never feel like I’m fully capable of taking on a task or filling a role, and that could be OK.