How Teens Can Overcome the Imposter Syndrome That Haunts Their Success

Why there are voices in my head that keeps telling me, ‘You’re not going to achieve it on your own’?

Earlier this year, I wrote about why students sometimes do not believe in their abilities and give all the credit to their LUCK? What makes them think as an ‘unworthy person’ and yet their ideas were just a result of copy and paste? This feeling where you consider yourself as an imposter or fraud. It means you somehow managed to bluff your way into the situation and in reality, you are not as talented as you showed. This feeling is called ‘Imposter Syndrome.’ Recently, I have encountered a similar kind of situation where one of my student’s parent asked me about the solution to this problem. She was so much concern about her kid that she believes that her kid’s progress and success is hindering due to this phenomenon.

Also Read | Why Do Students Feel Like an Imposter in Their Lives?

In this article, I will try to discuss some of the measures that help teenagers and parents to overcome that fear. However, it is essential to know why teens caught up with this syndrome in the first place and how you will know that you are struggling with Imposter Syndrome? Imposter Syndrome (IS) happens when we disregard our talents and abilities, especially when we are presented with a fantastic opportunity. For example, when Harry Potter was told that he is a wizard, his immediate reaction was to believe that there was some kind of a mistake, that he couldn’t possibly be magical or unique in any way.

Janina Scarlet, Ph.D., is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, scientist, and full-time geek. She believes that people with imposter syndrome feels like there is a monster sitting on their shoulder, whispering the worst things about them and making them doubt their every move. According to her, people with IS feel the following when they offer an exciting opportunity:

Embarrassment and fear of failure, and thoughts with insecure content, such as:

  1. What was I thinking?
  2. I’m not good enough
  3. Everyone will realize that I am a fraud
  4. If I try this, I will fail!

Leading to any of the following reactions:

  1. Over-preparing to impress others
  2. Procrastinating and panicking about procrastinating
  3. Increase in superstitious behaviours, such as wearing or not wearing a particular item of clothing because of the belief that if you do it the wrong way, you will fail.
  4. The belief that everyone is harshly evaluating you

Persistent physical anxiety reactions, such as:

  1. Increased heart rate
  2. Shallow breathing
  3. Sweaty palms
  4. Muscle tension
  5. Difficultly staying or falling asleep

If you said, “yes” to the above-listed criteria, you might also have struggled with the Imposter Syndrome. The Imposter Syndrome is not a medical or a psychological disorder, but it is a common experience that happens to a lot of people, brilliant, talented, and successful people. Many celebrities, scientists, and other public figures, such as Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou, Emma Watson, David Tennant, Michelle Obama, and Neil Gaiman also talked about having IS. Many students in highly successful academic programs or sports teams might even believe that they are imposters and were selected by accident.

Many students who engage in such feelings believe that they always have to be perfect; they should not commit any mistakes, and that they should accomplish everything in their lives by themselves without any outside help. Any mistake or received support might make them believe that they are not worthy of praise and their achievement. The irony of Imposter Syndrome is the moment you receive any negative feedback or critique; you likely to accept it as proof that you are in fact, not good enough.

How to Manage IS?

Dr Scarlet list down the following five steps that a person should take who struggling with IS.

Source: Psychology Today

Name it – recognize when Imposter Syndrome drives your thoughts and self-evaluations. Naming it can help you to understand better what is going on. In fact, you can even find out what type of Imposter Syndrome you might have by taking this quiz on Dr Jill Stoddard’s website: jillstoddard.

Normalize it – recognize that many people face Imposter Syndrome at some point, and people who are intelligent, talented, creative, sensitive, kind, and successful are likely to encounter it more than others.

Understand it – understand why you are having these experiences. People who are struggling with Imposter Syndrome don’t have these symptoms because they are inadequate. Instead, they feel inferior because they care about the particular cause or opportunity. If you have symptoms of Imposter Syndrome, ask yourself, what is the big picture? What do I really care about? (For example, helping people, creativity, contributing to the arts, medicine, or sciences, or creating meaningful relationships).

Honour the big picture. Once you recognize the big picture, take steps that honour it. For example, help others even when you feel inadequate. Remind yourself that Imposter Syndrome merely keeps you mindful of what you care about. Remember that the opposite of your biggest fear is actually your most significant core value.

Talk to others about the Imposter Syndrome – Write a blog post, pose a question on social media, ask people if they ever feel this way, tweet your favourite celebrities and role models. Ask them if they ever feel this way to show not only yourself but also many others that Imposter Syndrome is as normal as the rain.

It is likely that not only teens but adults also felt in the same way and might struggle with this syndrome. Even as a teacher, I sometimes think that I am not a good teacher, and I don’t deserve the place where I am today. Just remember one thing, if you ever start thinking whether you’re not ready, not good enough for any given opportunity, it means you’re exactly where you’re meant to be.

Good Luck!

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