Say you are the head flute player at your high school and your band teacher has recommended you to try out for the district level honor band. You practice your audition piece, nail said audition, and impress the judges so much that you earn first chair for the band. But, you find that as you are practicing the set of pieces you will be performing, you have this pesky thought in the back of your head that somehow you aren’t supposed to be here, that somehow those judges made a mistake in picking you.
If you have ever felt these uncomfortable feelings of insecurity or inadequacy, you are not alone. "Imposter Syndrome" can impact people from all walks of life and makes you feel like you are an “imposter” about whatever the topic is that you are working on. The problem is that these feelings can cause a person to make silly mistakes or hinder their confidence so much that they are too afraid to push themselves further!
To help combat this silent stressor, it’s important to talk openly with others and in turn, create a system of support that can help students build their confidence instead of avoiding potential failure.
How to Manage Feeling like an “Imposter”
If you have found yourself doubting your skills or abilities, there are ways to help quiet that negative voice in your head:
First, take a second to think about what it is exactly that you are feeling so anxious about. The key step in finding a solution is to identify the problem.
Once you’ve figured that out, focus on what skills you bring to the table and why you think you were given this opportunity or project. Do you have a history of producing great work? Are you super knowledgeable in a topic, to the point that it’s all you talk about? Can you pinpoint past times where you created something amazing that impressed the pants off your teacher?
If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then you will want to lean into these memories and tell yourself that you have the potential and your past history can confirm this. You can also try imagining what you would say to a friend if they were in your shoes. The trick is putting yourself outside of the situation, and looking at things from a very cut and dry perspective, thereby reducing the chances of coming up with “what if” scenarios.
How to Create an Imposter-Free Space
While it is important to develop self-confidence and acknowledge our “wins” in life, it is just as important to develop a sense of community support. For better or worse, we in the US live in a very competitive and individualistic society, and that can often become dog-eat-dog if you are an academically competitive student. But, this often means we have to hide our self-doubt, which is a lot like trying to sit on top of a beach ball in the middle of the ocean (i.e. it doesn’t work out too well).
Instead, consider talking with your friends or teachers when these feelings start creeping up. You can even say things like, “I know you wouldn’t assign me this project if you didn’t think I could do it, but I could really use a confidence booster because I am nervous about messing it up in one way or another.” The more light we can shine on this issue, the more people will understand that you don’t just have to “muscle through it,” and the more support we can find within each other.
So next time you are feeling like somehow you are just the wrong person for the job, try stepping outside your shoes to help squash that imposter voice.