‘I’m a fraud!’

Battling Imposter Syndrome

Katherine Neuner, Editor in Chief

It was a typical Monday lunch. I sat in the back of the classroom, quietly tearing open my granola bar. I watched the Speech and Debate president stand confidently at the front of the room, going over announcements and cracking the occasional joke. To an awkward, introverted freshman, she was my idol.


Then she turned to me and said, “Little Neuner, someday, you’ll be the next me.”


I felt everyone’s gaze on me and I blushed. “I could never do what she’s doing right now,” I thought to myself.


Flash forward three years. Standing in the front of the classroom where she had once stood, the same doubts run through my mind.


I ask myself, “Can I fill the shoes of previous presidents?” Or if I am standing before the Newspaper staff, I can’t help but think “What would Kathy do?” (Last year’s Editor-in-Chief).


And it turns out, I’m not alone in these episodes of self-doubt.


One of the world’s most celebrated authors, Maya Angelou once said, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’ ”


Or, as Tina Fey simply put it, “I’m a fraud! Oh god, they’re on to me! I’m a fraud!”


These sentiments are symptoms of a larger psychological pattern: Impostor Syndrome, the belief that you don’t deserve your success.


Chances are, you’ve felt this at some point in your life. According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science, a shocking 70 percent of people have experienced this feeling. Whether the success be getting into your dream school, acing your math test, or getting a promotion, we often have the tendency to chalk up our successes to luck, rather than hard work and talent.


And when we don’t believe in our own worth, we live in perpetual fear of being “found out.” So we put up a facade of confidence and hope that no one can see through it. I’ve found myself trying to go through the motions of previous Presidents and Editors, emulating their speaking styles and demeanors in hopes of becoming the perfect leader. Reflecting now, I realize that setting these unrealistic expectations for myself only made me more self-conscious and doubtful of my abilities.


So how do we change this way of thinking? The American Psychological Association, suggests that we realistically assess our abilities. Write down what you’re good at, and areas where you would like to improve. Making these lists help to fight distorted perceptions of our capabilities and guide us to set realistic expectations of ourselves.


When in comes down to it, I’ll never be the perfect leader. And that’s okay. Because I know that I was chosen for these positions for a reason. And by not allowing my doubt control my actions, I will lead these organizations with confidence, towards my vision of what they should become.


So the next time the thought, “What would Kathy do?” enters my head, I’ll push it aside. Instead, I’ll rephrase the question and ask, “What would I do?”