Technically, Impostor Syndrome can be defined as: “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.” (According to Google).
When I first started to consider graduate school late last summer, self-doubt and feelings of “intellectual fraudulence” didn’t even begin to cover it. What right did I have to pursue graduate school? While I genuinely enjoyed many of my classes, I was not a straight A student. I can hardly spell without spell check. I would rather spend 5 hours on a paper for a B+ than 10 hours on a paper for an A. After getting over my initial fears and actually telling people I was going to apply to grad school, I did a truly incredible job of convincing myself that I wasn’t going to get in. That admissions committees across the country would be able to read through the lines of my carefully crafted personal statement and slightly above average transcripts, and send back massive LOL’s.
Somehow, in this universe, that didn’t happen. I’ve actually gotten more acceptances from schools than rejections, and just returned from my first admitted students weekend. If you feel like truly exploring the depths of your Impostor Syndrome, visit a campus of a grad school you are interested in.
Battling feelings of fraud is tricky. On one hand you feel as though you are going to get found out at any moment, that you will get pulled aside and told “I’m so sorry, we made a mistake, you should potentially look at other options”, and on the other hand, you want to bust down doors and throw your qualifications in the air like confetti. It turns into proving your worth to yourself, and not just anonymous admissions committees. They have deemed you qualified enough, and yet you still seek that validation.
After two days of back-to-back funding interviews, article discussions, campus tours, and plenty of opportunities to interact with current students and other candidates, it was time to face the facts. I did belong there. I absolutely deserved to be admitted to the program, just like every other individual in the room. I was able to hold my own in mock class discussions, and I feel confident about my interviews. At no point during the weekend did I feel left behind in an intellectual sense, and felt a few of my final graduate-level fears melt away.
It’s a funny thing when Impostor Syndrome fades. It’s not like you all of a sudden feel amazing about yourself, but it’s a quiet voice in your head that whispers: “speak up- your opinion is valid”.
I’m sure this won’t be my last interaction with Impostor Syndrome, with plenty of interviews and campus visits to go, but it’s a score for my confidence levels that I won this round. I do want this, and that’s okay. I want to be a graduate student, and am qualified to do so. I am not “less than” anyone else in the room. Feeling confident or having a sense of belonging doesn’t make me an egotistical maniac, but it does make me brave. Recognizing feelings of inadequacy doesn’t make me failure, it makes me a human who feels authentic nerves. And acknowledging that this is something I really want doesn’t make me cocky or fearless, if anything it does the opposite, but it does make me believe in my qualifications just that much more.