Dealing With the Imposter in the Room – Myself

Fanta Dabo, Opinions Editor

Every quarter when report cards were distributed, I can recall countless times where classmates asked about my grades and immediately followed the question with some form of compliment about my intellect. However, despite generally receiving straight A’s and a 4.0 GPA, my response was always a form of, “I’m not smart; I was just lucky this quarter.”

Legitimized in 1978 by American psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, imposter syndrome, or imposter phenomenon, refers to the feeling of self-doubt despite abundant success that proves otherwise, often leaving the individual questioning their belonging, intellectual security, and feeling under-deserving of accomplishments.

This mentality is not uncommon as, according to Chris Palmer in “How To Overcome Imposter Phenomenon” for the American Psychological Association, “Up to 82% of people face feelings of impostor phenomenon, struggling with the sense they haven’t earned what they’ve achieved and are a fraud.” While it is not an official clinical syndrome or diagnosis, it is a psychological occurrence that has detrimental effects to the mental health of an individual.

Interestingly, numerous historical studies have proven that the most common groups susceptible to imposter syndrome are high achievers incapable of internalizing success, women, and people of color. The issue generally stems from societal pressures towards marginalized groups that must work twice as hard to be recognized as worthy.

Kirsten Weir, “Feel Like A Fraud?” for the American Psychological Association, quotes Frederick Hives, an African-American fourth-year PsyD candidate at John F. Kennedy, who states, “I was taught I would need to work twice as hard to be half as good.” Hives’ point is that because he is black, he was taught that he needed to put in far more than his white counterparts in order to receive an ounce of recognition, making it near impossible to relish the success he did have. Familial and parental expectations are also the root of “imposter” feelings, as labeling children with the term can lead to the assumption that it is all they amount to.

Although it may result in anxiety, constant fear of failure, or even depression, the phenomenon is surmountable through methods that include noting one’s accomplishments, constant affirmations, therapy, or progressively taking steps to rid oneself of perfectionist habits.