EDITOR’S COLUMN: You’re not an imposter

From work, to school, to a dreadful travel experience I didn’t think I could make my way out of; I have struggled with imposter syndrome my entire teen and now adult life.

Imposter syndrome — something that 70% of people face, according to the International Journal of Behavioral Science — is a phenomenon that suggests we think we only got where we are because of luck. Consciously, I know that I put in hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of effort and grit to land where I am. But that nagging feeling still sits in the back of my head.

Take my position at the Torch, for instance. The first month I was in charge, I was internally screaming 24/7 and felt I might not be the right fit for the job, even though my predecessors and faculty advisor had trained me well and given me all the tools I needed to succeed. Further, they were standing behind me the entire time, ready to catch me and help me back up if I slipped. I wasn’t doing this alone.

Throughout my tenure as editor-in-chief, I’ve come to realize that I was made for this work. It just took me way longer to see that than everyone else. I focused on the flaws that I saw in my work and never focused on the good, even though that significantly outweighed the bad. It took a lot of self-reflection to get to a place where that nagging feeling was a bit duller.

Even outside of the Torch, when applying for internships and graduate school, I feared that my Torch or journalism and technical communication echo chamber may have given me false confidence. I was unsure if I could make anything of myself outside of the bounds of this publication and this school. So much so I did a double, then triple take just to make sure I was reading my acceptance letters correctly.

Though I am still dealing with this — and likely will be for the rest of my life — I’ve found some things that ease the burden of these feelings. First, it was finding the right people to surround myself with. People that would push me to do my best work and who would be honest with me when I wasn’t quite there yet. Getting into positions with new people who had similar goals as I did was a massive step forward because they didn’t have any reason to, for lack of a better phrase, cushion my feelings.

Finally, a thought hit me like a freight train: I wouldn’t be feeling these feelings if I didn’t care deeply about the work I was doing and the impact that it has. Further, people wouldn’t continue to promote, admit or accept me for bigger and better opportunities if I was not qualified.

While it’s for sure going to be a long process to deprogram these feelings, I leave you with this: trust yourself a bit more and cut yourself some slack. I know, I know, easier said than done. But you’ve made it this far on your own, so you’re obviously doing something right. Bask in the accomplishments, but also take constructive criticism in stride. You’re usually more capable than you think.