Cabaero: Imposter syndrome

·2 min read

I first came across the term “imposter syndrome” in a Harvard Magazine article about a student feeling unworthy of getting into that prestigious university.

Harvard University is not an easy school to get into and those who do start out with feelings of inadequacy, afraid to be found to be a fraud. Those feelings come about especially when you get surrounded by people you know are better than you.

The university is known to have students who are scions to business empires in the United States and other countries, start-up owners, scientists, geniuses, politicians, children of politicians, and people working with the Central Intelligence Agency and other government agencies, among others. For those who get a journalism fellowship as I did for the academic year 2013 to 2014, classmates include a Pulitzer prize winner, several book authors, war correspondents, and journalists distinguished in their fields. Here I was, a Philippine community journalist.

It felt familiar when I read the article of student Rebecca E.J. Cadenhead in the May-June 2022 issue of The Harvard Magazine. The article is titled “The Truth About Imposter Syndrome” on Cadenhead’s thoughts on “a perennial undergraduate complaint.”

She wrote, “In the first few months of my freshman year, I was told, pointedly, all the time, that I deserved to be here. School administrators obviously think that imposter syndrome—which the SEAS Graduate Council defines as ‘a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success’—is enough of a concern to preemptively assure students that they are, in fact, worthy of being students.” She entertained doubts about her academic abilities and wondered if she deserved to be in a school where only the exceptional got accepted. Later, she learned to verbalize her feelings of inadequacy and was able to overcome the fear of being a fraud.

The imposter syndrome is not only about students feeling they did not deserve their place in the world’s best schools but also of people thrust into responsible positions yet burdened by fears of being unable to deliver.

After our May 2022 general elections, some of those elected may have developed the syndrome or versions of it. The poll results have been declared as generally fraud-free yet the high number of votes for certain candidates appeared unbelievable.

Senator Robin Padilla, the no. 1 in the senatorial race, said he could not believe he topped the list of winning candidates. There were others who also won by huge margins over their opponents.

To those who won and are fresh in office, you may have entertained feelings of insufficiency, and the way forward is to admit to having such sentiments and to work at competencies to prove you are not a fraud. You do this by spending time and effort to learn the job and perform the responsibilities. You have the mandate to put into action your programs of government. If you don’t, you can be called a fraud.

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