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Am I the only one with imposter syndrome?

By Karin Abrena Sam Kingston

Since starting medical school, have you ever been in lecture with students talking about something that you had absolutely no clue about? Have you ever been questioned in ward rounds by a consultant and just could not figure out the right answer? Have you ever failed when attempting to take bloods and then questioned your abilities? Oh well, you are not alone. For reference, I am a 4th year MBBS student who even after these four years, battles with fighting off imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is defined as a behavioural phenomenon of self-doubt of intellect, skills, or accomplishments amongst high-achieving individuals. And what better place to have high achieving individuals than medical school. I still remember one of my first days at the university lecture hall when the lecturer and one of the students were talking about something I wasn’t aware of. And I felt so very ashamed of not knowing the components of this topic. From being a “know it all” in school to having to learn new things on a regular basis, it took time to reassess myself. The funny thing about this is that it is very easy to forget all the times I did great at class or on placements and fixate on that one time I didn’t know something.

So how to deal with it:

  1. Remember you are not alone. Studies suggest that nearly half of medical students at least feel this at some point through their education. You could look for a friend, a close confidant or a mentor and talk to them about this, and more often than not they are probably feeling exactly the same. This will support you to overcome it together.

  2. Remember you are doing well. It’s nearly impossible to know everything and all through you career even after you graduate and start training, you are going to continue to learn new things. This means that there is always going to be something you didn’t know about. As long as you have the drive to learn and keep learning, I think you are going to be fine.

  3. A famous statement that I hear a lot – “It’s a marathon not a sprint” – so take things slow. If you feel like you are incompetent in a certain topic or skill set, take a step back and plan to work on it. And in time, that will reward you. So the next time you are questioned on it, you are going to shine.

  4. And finally I am not going to say “don’t doubt yourself”, because I know that it is easier said than done. But what I will say is never ever give up. I think its very easy to feel overwhelmed by everything happening around you, but remember that perseverance is a learned skill. Don’t hold back just because you are questioning yourself, because then you’ll never know what you are missing out on.

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