I don’t really belong in their class. But Maya Angelou, Albert Einstein and I have something in common. Albert, for one, directly called himself an “involuntary swindler”. Apparently, he felt his works gained much more recognition than they honestly deserved. Maya too, with every new book release, was worried that someone would find out her game and call her out.
So I’ve also experienced a lot of success in my life. From being top of class most of my life to securing a scholarship to study medicine in a different continent after secondary school, yes, I do know what achievement feels like. This, however, has not stopped me from feeling some sense of inadequacy from time to time. I learnt that feeling is called Imposter Syndrome.

Have you ever felt like a fraud in an environment of highly-achieving people? Have you ever attributed your accomplishments to luck? Have you felt like you deceived people into thinking you’re more knowledgeable than you truly are? Do you often feel petrified that you’ll be found out soon? That people will eventually find out you don’t really deserve all that success?
Imposter Syndrome is when you feel you aren’t qualified enough to be in a position and yet you are there. It is a subtle attempt to discredit your abilities and discount the evidences of your success. Imposterism is not necessarily a fear of failure or incompetence. It’s simply a fear of being discovered.

This overwhelming feeling affects over 70 percent of individuals everywhere. And it’s not just in qualified, highly skilled individuals. It is even more visible in disadvantaged and underrepresented groups such as the black race, the female gender and the international student community and different professional settings. Seeing that I tick most of these boxes, I might as well be an actual imposter.

For example, as an African studying medicine in Russia, it’s quite easy to start feeling like I don’t belong. Like the rest of my friends, I often struggle to express my knowledge in this language I’m still getting a hang of. But then I look around and notice that many of my Russian classmates too are not sure they are capable. So what do we do with these feelings?

Recognise It: To call imposterism a syndrome is to downplay its universality. Because people refuse to voice their doubt, we each feel we are alone in our thinking. Most of us doubt ourselves privately but do not recognize those same feelings in others. This is called Pluralistic Ignorance.
Many people suffering from this syndrome are afraid to acknowledge their feelings. I am learning that even though these feelings are sometimes valid, they are often overrated and can even lead to severe depression in some individuals.

Talk about It: Discussing Imposter Syndrome both with those who suffer from it and with those who have overcome it can help answer some of our questions. Maybe we will even find validation for some of our skills and gradually stop feeling like a fraud.
It’s important to get people to talk about their struggles and share ideas on where they’re at in their journey. I’ve also learnt to revisit positive feedbacks and analyze previous achievements. This helps me put things in perspective and get rid of that “not-good-enough” logic.

Own It: Do you find it hard to accept recognition when people say “Great job”? And do you feel ashamed when you make an obvious mistake? Own all of it. Then turn it into a forceful good. Harness those experiences that challenge your worth and build your confidence in the simple truths.
You have talent.
You are capable.
You belong.
You deserve all that success.

Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments😊.

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10 Responses

  1. this is a nice piece. Keep it up

  2. Uju says:

    I do almost all the time and I don’t think I have handled it yet.

  3. Adebanjo says:

    I have, countless times, and still do. I don’t really handle it. It just comes, takes its toll on me and leave. Then the cycle continues.

  4. Adesola Ajayi says:

    From the introduction I could see myself relating to this article, and I didn’t think what I was experiencing was a syndrome, I just got along and have not really overcome it. This piece has definitely been revealing and informative. Ready to apply these tips even to the littlest sense of doubt or inadequacy. Thank you for this 😇😇

  5. Sheytie Grace says:

    This is absolutely true…. thank you for this👍

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