The reality of imposter syndrome

“I’ll never be good enough”

“What am I doing here?”

“I don’t deserve this”

If any of these phrases sound familiar to you, you may be suffering from imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon where you feel like you don’t deserve you own success. It’s that gnawing voice of self-doubt that only criticises and focuses on your flaws, or that fear of being outed as incompetent. It’s feeling like a fake or as though you don’t deserve your success, putting it down to good luck and timing instead.

 

If you relate to this self-doubt and fear of being revealed as a fraud, you’re not alone. Imposter syndrome is highly prevalent, with up to 70% of people experiencing at least one episode in their lifetime. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that it may be even higher in the high-achieving cohort of medical students and healthcare professionals where you’re surrounded by people who excel and the stakes are high. I’ve seen it in my friends, my peers, and it’s something I’ve often seen in myself. After my very first exam in medical school, I remember the fear of not belonging at medical school, of being revealed as some dumb high-schooler who had conned the interviewer into admission, despite the HD I had just recieved. Now at the end of my medical degree with internship fast approaching, these doubts still haunt me – I fear that I will be an incompetent intern, a deadweight dragging down my team.

 

Looking back over my years at medical school, I’ve now realised that this has been a massive source of stress, anxiety and low self-confidence, and I know that this will only get worse once internship and “real” responsibility starts. In addition, while imposter syndrome isn’t a diagnosable mental health condition, it can be linked to depression and anxiety. As such, what can we do to combat imposter syndrome?

 

How to overcome it?

Unfortunately there is no quick fix for imposter syndrome, but it can be overcome with ongoing, conscious effort. Some strategies I personally believe would be useful include

  • Gathering hard, objective evidence about your successes: write down a list of your achievements and skills. This isn’t bragging or tooting your own horn, it’s acknowledging that you are capable and deserving of your own accomplishments.
  • Talk with your peers in a safe environment: it can be really helpful to voice your thoughts – often you’ll find they share the same concerns, which helps normalise your feelings and lets you know you’re not alone

 

At the end of the day, remember: you are better than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for. You have value. You are worthy. You are enough.

 

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