I'm on the verge of adulthood, womanhood, self-discovery, creativity, and sometimes a whole lot of emotions! Feel free to follow my journey!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Impostor Alert!

My best friend and I are your classic girl duo - both feminist, both perfectionists, both hard working, both (unfortunately) suffering from our own personal demons at times, both with lots of goals and lots to talk about on those rare occasions we can talk on the phone or see each other (she goes to school in Virginia, we usually consider ourselves lucky if we can see each other three times in one year).

Our conversations are never dull. One topic, I've been meaning to write about for months. It's called Impostor Syndrome.

According to this article, people with Impostor Syndrome are "unable to internalize their accomplishments." They often shrug away success as dumb luck, good timing, work, personality OR immediately start thinking of the task ahead instead of enjoying or congratulating themselves for their success. They constantly feel that those around them are smarter, better, more able then them and that they will eventually get "found out" as a fraud.

Say you got an A on a midterm in a difficult class. Instead of being excited about it, you think, "Well, I only got this grade because I studied so much, not because I'm actually good at the subject," "Well, the test wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. If it had been on all the information I'd never have done as well," "Well so-and-so got an A on this test and didn't even have to study. He/she is so much smarter than I am," or "Well it's a good thing I did well on this test, because I'm definitely going to fail the midterm...and this is a sequential class, so I have no idea how I'm going to do next semester...maybe this degree is too difficult for me."

I know SO many women who suffer from different severities of impostor syndrome. Going to college for music is a breeding ground for all kinds of perfectionist insecurities. Everyone is always trying to be a little bit better, do a little bit more, work a little bit harder. As a vocalist you should be in choir...and do the opera...and opera workshop...and a summer program in Italy...and sing in masterclasses...etc, etc.

My best friend is a classic example. She's a math major and double minor in art history and the Classics at a competitive college. She has a 4.0 GPA, 3 part time jobs, is involved in a service fraternity and heads multiple clubs, runs marathons...and still feels like she's never good enough!

On a positive note, impostor syndrome often makes women compete harder for their goals. It's what made me audition 4 times for the performance degree when I could have easily gotten a music education degree and not have gone through all the headache of the past 4 years. It's what makes another friend of mine stay up late making sure she has the perfect lesson plans for student teaching.

Impostor syndrome is perfectionism on steroids. Perfectionism is saying, "I need to be perfect." while impostor syndrome is, "I need to be perfect to hide the fact that I'm actually a failure." Impostor syndrome can be at the root of all kinds of mental health issues - depression/anxiety and eating disorders especially. The funny thing is that when you have depression, it's even more difficult to be wonder woman...

I only wish that we could get off the treadmill of our culture-on-overdrive. Stop talking to ourselves in a nastier voice than we would EVER let anyone else speak to us. Stop looking into the future and trying to be thinner, smarter, better, richer, more popular, more successful and actually start ENJOYING the lives we have RIGHT NOW.

1 comment:

  1. I feel this one, Kelly. Sidenote: have you seen the film Race to Nowhere? It's screening downtown at Cinemapolis this Wednesday night at 7:00, and you might appreciate it. It focuses on how we're imparting this stuff to our kids.