*This article was written by me for the NMU Blog. Click here to read on their website*
When I was in high school, I didn’t feel supported by the administrators; I felt like a number. I even had an educator tell me that I wasn’t “college material”. As a student at NMU, I had a team of faculty and staff who believed in me from day one. It was the support I received at NMU that allowed me to see my own potential and work through my own feelings of self-doubt. I credit my NMU mentors with helping me to get to where I am in my career today, and I often think of the difference the support they showed me made in my life. The impact that NMU had on me as a student continues to motivate me to provide similar support to my clients.
There were so many resources on campus that introduced me to, and allowed me to connect with my mentors. It started with getting involved in my house and hall along with getting an on-campus job. I received support from my professors and my academic advisor who eventually encouraged me to apply to become an RA and an Orientation Staff Assistant. The CSE helped me to get involved in many student organizations, SLFP, and Superior Edge; all of which introduced me to more campus leaders who had a lasting impact on me. I also felt the support from various campus resources. Offices such as The Dean of Students, Career Services, The NMU Police Department, and Financial Aid are staffed with caring professionals who provided me with guidance and support throughout my journey as a student. Since my graduation, NMU has continued to expand its support for students by adding resources such as the NMU Food Pantry, and services for first-generation Wildcats. As many as 82% of adults report feeling undeserving of their accomplishments in life and feel like frauds. How can we overcome these thoughts to focus on our goals? From my own experience of learning to push through feelings of self-doubt, I became very interested in helping others do the same. In my work as a licensed mental health therapist, I became familiar with a common experience known as impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is the term utilized to describe the feeling that we are unworthy of our accomplishments and that in only a matter of time we will be exposed as a fraud who “got lucky” or continued to “sneak by” in life. This feeling causes fear, shame, stress, worry, perfectionistic behaviors, and may even prevent some of us from taking necessary steps toward our goals. Many of us who experience impostor syndrome convince ourselves that if we just learn a little more or accomplish one more thing, we will finally feel like “enough” and no longer be a fraud. However, impostor syndrome will continue to discredit our accomplishments and follow us throughout life. Each time we approach a new opportunity or a new goal, impostor syndrome can pop up again, trying to convince us that we still aren't enough despite all we have accomplished. Here are a few steps to work through our impostor syndrome: Take time to familiarize yourself with its characteristics: The first step to working through our impostor syndrome is to take the time to familiarize ourselves with the characteristics of this syndrome before it is able to convince us of its lies. Our impostor syndrome will repeat the same messages throughout our lives, so by identifying what our impostor syndrome thoughts are, we can recognize them for what they are and implement tools to help us push beyond those negative thoughts. Write down what our impostor syndrome is telling us: Impostor syndrome thoughts are irrational and often hold no factual evidence to support their claims. By taking some time to write down what our impostor syndrome is telling us, we can, then, identify evidence to disprove its claims. For example, a common impostor syndrome thought is that we are not intelligent. Evidence on our list to disprove this claim might include such things as graduating from high school, earning a GED, passing a recent test or exam, finishing a book, learning a new skill or hobby, getting positive feedback on an assignment, helping someone else think through a problem, passing a class, etc. Admit and share the fear and thoughts to members of our support system: The feeling that we are a fraud can lead us to feel like we need to work endlessly harder to ensure that we don’t get exposed as that fraud. This fear can cause us to feel isolated and ashamed. Admitting this fear and these thoughts to members of our support system is another powerful way to work through this syndrome. Our mentors will be able to help us identify evidence to disprove our impostor syndrome thoughts, and it is very possible that our friends and colleagues may reveal that they, too, experience similar thoughts about themselves. This shared experience may then help decrease our feelings of isolation and foster a sense of connectedness. An additional benefit of sharing our thoughts of being a fraud is that it will decrease the looming feeling that we are about to be “exposed,” since we are already exposing ourselves! It’s a wonderful way to regain our power over those thoughts. Recognize that we worry the most about things that really matter to us: When impostor syndrome shows up in our lives, we should remember that whatever is causing these thoughts is something important to us. Impostor syndrome is, in fact, a sign that we are on the right track toward accomplishing our goals in life. So, let’s remember that whatever our impostor syndrome tries to tell us, we ARE worthy of chasing our dreams and achieving our goals, and the amazing mentors and resources at NMU are ready to help you on your journey!