You are not an imposter…
How often have you felt like you didn’t deserve that compliment? Like you are not good enough, and you’d be exposed at any time? Have you also been under the impression that your colleagues are ahead of you, and are more accomplished?
If you are unable to internalize or own your success, you might be suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’. Although imposter syndrome is not an official psychiatric diagnosis, it can incur unfavourable consequences for students or fresh graduates, and even highly accomplished seniors. The syndrome can affect people of all ages, genders, and professions. Even Albert Einstein is thought to have struggled with similar feelings!
Imposter syndrome—the idea that you have only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications—was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes.
Imposter syndrome is very commonly encountered among young dentists. Many dental students on graduating from dental school remain unable to believe that they are good enough to single-handedly treat and counsel patients.
Dental News recently held a poll on its social platform, asking young dentists whether they felt confident in treating patients, or they believed that they were not able enough. 22% of the poll participants voted for the latter choice. Displaying doubt in skills that one learnt over their years in dental school, and believing that their fellows are ahead of them in the same field is typical ‘imposter’ attitude.
Insecurity in the sufferers, regarding their skills and talent, limits them from assuming leading roles. Students affected by the syndrome may prefer to remain in shadows for the fear of being caught as incompetent when in spotlight; they also avoid asking questions in order to avoid being judged by peers and held is lesser regard by their teachers. These thoughts and ideas are harmful to an individual’s growth and are often associated with anxiety, which can potentially lead to depression.
Fortunately, these negative perceptions are not impossible to overcome. Here’s what you can do to help yourself:
- Talk about it to realize that you are not alone!
It is very important to acknowledge and confront the negative thoughts and to realize their damaging impact. Once one has come to term with it, it is helpful to share these feelings with a trusted contact. Often times a sufferer will convince him/herself to not talk about their imposter syndrome because of the fear that the response they receive will only confirm their concern.
Take that step, and confide in a mentor or peer, more often than not you would be made to feel part of a circle!
- Redefine “smart”.
You do not need to know everything. Accepting that you do not know something and asking questions does not mean that you are unintelligent. Your professor will not label you as ‘dumb’, you will not be considered incompetent for the field. From a freshman to a professor, no one knows everything. Everyone learns by asking/researching.
You don’t have to gauge yourself against lofty, unrealistic standards.
- Be realistic.
Be easy on yourself. If you are a victim of imposter syndrome, it is an easy possibility that you are unnecessarily harsh on yourself. Regardless of the point you are at in your career, you have to set realistic expectations for yourself. Your clinical skills may not be as fine-tuned as those who have had years of experience working in a dental clinic. Avoid comparing yourself to others and focus on the benchmarks you need to meet.
- Recognize your value.
Make a list of your accomplishments.
Again, talk to a teacher or a friend about how you feel. You will realize that you have achieved more than you give yourself credit for!
The next time you feel like an imposter, remember that you are not. You worked hard to get to where you are right now. The success you earned is a result of your efforts, not luck or deception. Luck can only carry someone so far, so if you’ve made it this far, it’s because you deserve it.