Tackling Imposter Syndrome
This article was written by Uma Alagappan, a sophomore from Dartmouth College interning with Launch gURLs this fall. Uma is an essential part of our Impact Evaluation Team for our pilot, Girl Boss.
“How did I get this opportunity?”
“What could I possibly have to offer?”
“How is everyone else so accomplished?”
Have ever asked yourself any of these questions? I know I have. Even if we work hard for the opportunities we get, we tend to question whether we deserve to be there. This is called imposter syndrome.
The first, most important, thing to know is everyone feels this at some point in their life regardless of how much they’ve studied, how much they’ve grown, or how much they’ve prepared for a new opportunity. I know that I have been nervous when starting a new class or a new job. It’s okay to be nervous, but we can’t let our nerves convince us that we don’t deserve to be where we are. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Here are a few tips that have helped me to work past feeling inadequate and underqualified when starting a new opportunity.
1. Making a mistake is not the same as failure.
If the goal is excellence, we must understand that excellence does not mean perfection. We can make mistakes without threatening our chance of success. It is essential that we don’t let a few mistakes convince us that we are unable to succeed in a specific role or excel in a given opportunity. If we own up to our mistakes and learn what we can from them, we can move on from them more easily.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others.
When starting a new job or a new class in school, I often find myself paying close attention to other people’s successes. Focusing on all the things that other people are doing ‘better’ tends to make us feel more insecure about our own progress. Although it’s hard to stop ourselves from admiring others’ accomplishments, we can choose not to compare those accomplishments to our own. Every individual is different. Some people appear more confident in their abilities, which can be intimidating, but does not mean that they are more qualified. Try to redirect the energy we spend comparing ourselves to others who seem to be doing well into learning as much as we can in order to succeed ourselves. If we do this, we can work hard without worrying whether we are as good as the person next to us.
3. Reminder yourself, “I got this opportunity for a reason.”
This tip has helped me the most. When I remind myself that there was a reason that someone gave me this opportunity, I begin to realize that I do have skills and values to offer. I start to recognize my own potential, and I feel a responsibility to make the most of my experience. When I begin to focus on my work, I start to engage with my work fully. This is where I find the most personal growth.
I hope these three tips help you as much as they have helped me. While I still feel nervous when beginning a new position, my nerves no longer keep me from making the most of an opportunity.