June 13, 2017
This post originally appeared in Her Campus, the UC Davis edition. It is used with permission of the author (um, who is my daughter, #ProudMom)
“They must have made a mistake." This is the first thought I have when something goes well in my life. Whether it’s a good grade on a test, an internship, or organizing something important, I don’t think about the hours I put in studying or the effort I put into my application. The imposter phenomenon, also known as Imposter or Fraud Syndrome, was first described in 1978 by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD. Clance defines imposter phenomenon as a phenomenon in which people who have been successful by “external standards” feel as though their success has occurred due to luck, fluke, or “great effort.” People who resonate with Imposter Syndrome believe that it will be found out that they do not have what it takes to complete a task, feel a need for everything to be perfect, and often feel anxiety and depression throughout the process of completing tasks. They overthink everything and are afraid that people will discover this. I definitely recognize these feelings within the experiences of my own life and mental health.
Clance developed the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS). Although this scale is not validated for official diagnosis, it can be used to see how one compares to others and has been used in peer reviewed research. The test is scored from 20-100 and can be found here if you are interested in taking it yourself. The higher the score, the “more frequently and seriously the Imposter Phenomenon interferes in a person’s life." I received a score of 67, which corresponds with frequently having imposter feelings. It is difficult for me to even admit that I frequently experience feelings of being an imposter. To admit so is to say that I think I am successful. The test is predicated on one being successful to a certain degree by external standards. By external standards and through other people’s eyes I can see that I am successful. I go to an amazing university, have done well, have the opportunity to write and have my words read. But many times I do not feel the least bit successful, continuing the cycle of feelings of being an imposter.
Over the years, this has damaged and heavily impacted my mental health. I constantly compare everything I do with the highlight reels of those around me. I feel fake and like I am going through the motions of life without actually being able to take the time to step back and enjoy the situations I find myself in. I worry about what will happen ten years from now and imagine situations where someone will come up to me ask me why I am there, what gives me the right to be here? But with the recognition that these are valid feelings, I have come to work through them and cut myself more slack. If you recognize these circumstances within your own life, I want you to know that it is possible to work through. It is very common, especially among women college students, and you should not feel that what you are facing is not important. There are many ways to get help, including, talking to someone about it, working on changing your thinking, and making realistic assessments of your abilities.
I wanted to talk about this because I feel like mental health is a stigmatized issue no one likes to talk about, even though most people deal with some mental health issue at some point in their lives. My personal mental health is not something I really like to discuss or bring attention to; a lot of people tend cover up their mental health issues. However I think the first step to destigmatizing these situations is to talk about it. It is important to me for people to realize that they are not alone in any circumstance they may face.
None of the images used belong to the author or Her Campus UC Davis.