Dear Faculty Relations: Sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I am doing, and it is only a matter of time until I am "found out". What can I do? – Feel like a Fake
Dear Writer: You are not alone; this is a common concern that faculty and researchers seek support around. Persistent feelings of self-doubt and perceived fraudulence and incompetence, a phenomenon often colloquially called imposter syndrome, is a psychological pattern often observed amongst high-achieving individuals. While it is not a diagnosable pathology, imposter syndrome can have a powerful negative impact on one’s own identity and valuation.
This persistent internalized fear of being ‘found out’ is often countered by working even longer hours and holding yourself to unrealistic standards. This can easily slip into feelings of diminished self-worth and confidence, resentment, burnout, and depression and anxiety, all of which negatively impact important relationships and hobbies in your life.
The first step to managing imposter syndrome is acknowledging when that internal critic is present. Notice how unfairly your inner critic weighs out the variables. Instead, take a more rigorous and scientific approach: document internal feedback and compare it to external feedback. Be objective and fair-minded here!
Secondly, consider what you would say to a dear friend who may be experiencing something similar. How might you care for them? What would you say to them, especially if they were being so self-critical and harsh?
Lastly, remind yourself how natural it is for difficulty to arise and failures to occur. Reflect on others who may be in a similar situation and feel similar things. Offer compassion to yourself.
Seek the advice and guidance of trusted mentors, and remember that you can always contact Faculty and Staff Assistance Program for professional support.
Written by Stanley Ly, MA, Director of Faculty and Staff Assistance Program, University of Colorado Boulder, October 2022