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Imposter Syndrome: Internal Prompt

by Kimberley Lewis, MCB

**Winner of Most Informative Blog Post**


Impostor Syndrome, as defined, is the feeling of inadequacy or not belonging due to being under qualified for a particular position. As graduate students, most, if not all of us, have experienced this at least once. In fact, graduate students are high on the list of people who normally experience this phenomenon. The impostor feeling may last a few months, go away after a few days, or be just a fleeting thought. For me, the first time I felt it was during the process of preparing for my qualifying exam. I was inundated with dread at the thought of all I needed to learn to prepare for the defense, in addition to the looming deadlines. I realized very quickly that I had a decision to make: either freeze up and be overwhelmed or identify what the problem was and prioritize what I needed to accomplish. Since then, each time I have felt like an impostor I performed an internal assessment to identify the issues and tackled them one by one until all was back to rights.

What most graduate students fail to understand is that their qualifications have already been rigorously assessed during the application process for graduate school. Admission rates to graduate schools are usually very competitive, ranging from a 5-14% acceptance rate. Also, people who experience the Impostor Syndrome have been characterized as being high achievers, hard workers, and intelligent. Many famous people, for example Maya Angelou, who embody success, also have had the Impostor Experience.

With that being said, feeling this way occasionally should not be viewed as a weakness. Instead, it should be taken as a sign that maybe priorities need to be rearranged or that there might be a skill that can be strengthened in order to streamline our performance. As graduate students, we should spend our graduate career constantly performing internal evaluations in order to get the best out of graduate school in terms of growing as young professionals. Since feeling like an impostor is an indirect way of identifying our weaknesses or areas that need improving, we should aim to use this as an internal prompt for self-assessment. In doing so, we will be constantly aware of the things we need to work on in order to be well-rounded graduate students. So I say to my fellow comrades, let us turn the negativity associated with feeling like an impostor into positivity by focusing on improving ourselves. When you start to feel like an impostor, just remember that it too shall pass.

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