Imposter Syndrome: what it is, how to help, and knowing you're not alone. Leah Brooks
Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Leah Brooks - 3rd year Medical Student
I remember the day I realised I had been accepted to medical school. Shock, excitement, and happiness were all I could think about. I DID IT! I was beyond excited to start my education towards becoming a doctor and yet there was this little voice in the back of my head saying you must have been very lucky. Still, I pushed this to the back of my mind: I was proud of my A-levels and I was going to medical school.
The voice disappeared for a few weeks but re-appeared the first day of lectures. There I was surrounded by 250 others just like me and yet there was that voice how could you be as worthy as them? They’re a lot smarter than you? You must have been very lucky. I assumed that as time went on, as exams were passed and placements were completed this voice would simply vanish. But as I write this, as a third-year medic, I would still say that voice is a part of my life. However, slowly, it is drifting away.
Imposter syndrome, put simply, is the idea that you’ve exceeded at something purely by luck. Excluding any qualification or academic achievement that you may have or have worked for. It is experienced by many people from many different walks of life. There are several different types of imposter syndrome, but all centre around this idea of feeling like we may not belong or be worthy enough to be where we have worked hard to be.
Sometimes it can be hard to shake these thoughts, and even when success is reached, we start to question how we reached it. The answer is most definitely down to your hard work, determination, and academic ability, and yet it can be easy to let the voice of negativity in.
The first step to being able to have a greater understanding of imposter syndrome is by knowing that you are not alone in feeling this way. Though it may feel like you are the odd one out, you may be surprised to hear that these emotions are actually felt by the majority of your peers. It is important when you may feel this way to become critical in your thinking. Do these thoughts help you? Or actually, do they stop you from feeling proud of yourself? Do they push you to work harder? Or do they make you feel like you can’t work hard enough?
Being able to gain a deeper understanding of how these thoughts reflect on your emotions can be a much easier way to control your negative voice. Next, take a step back from yourself and describe yourself as if you were talking to someone else. Have you achieved everything you wanted to achieve? Yes. If this was your peer you were describing would you be saying it was all down to luck, or would you be saying about how hard you saw them working? The latter would be the most likely answer in this situation. So, my point is, if you wouldn’t say this about someone else, even if they had achieved the exact same you had, why would you say it about yourself?
Life does come with hurdles: you will have good days and bad days, sometimes things may go to plan and sometimes they may not. However, you owe it to yourself to be proud of who you are and what you have accomplished. It is not fair on you to let that voice take it all away, because at the end of the day that voice may not be real, but all you have achieved and worked for is most definitely real and should be focused on.
An imposter syndrome expert Valerie Young said you can “still have an imposter moment, but not an imposter life.” She explains that, yes, sometimes it can be normal to feel this way, and as negative as it feels we must be able to overcome those emotions so as not to live our daily lives by them.
Talking to others about how you feel may be deeply rewarding to you. Talking to a trusted friend or relative or even writing down how you feel can be an excellent way to express how you feel, discuss that negative voice, and then let it go.
Having the confidence to work for your dream career is something you should be proud of alone. Every achievement and every day in your life is yours and something you should be proud of and cherish. Do not let that negative voice take that away from you. Accept what it has to say, realise it is not real, and take ownership of who you are and who you are striving to be, and soon that negative voice won’t be a part of you, but simply a memory of who you once thought you were, but not who you are.
*If you are concerned about the way you feel make sure to contact your university/GP for help and guidance*