I feel like a fraud and what I can do about it

Photo by Larm Rmah on Unsplash

A thought came to me like an unwelcome visitor — “I am incompetent.” At first, it passed through my mind and as if on cue, it sat in my head without any plans of leaving at all.

Have you ever experienced this nagging feeling of worthlessness that makes you doubt about yourself? I have – quite a lot of times already. It’s not that you think about how incapable you are all the time but the idea just sneaks unannounced. I get to notice that this feeling of incompetence usually comes when my expectations are not realized.

In my account – a graduate student (upon writing) doing her thesis – it was my inability to solve the problem I needed to address that pushed me to the edge of anxiety. I was in a tight spot then, with a deadline underway. And if the problem remained unsolved, it would cost me my graduation rites.

RELATED: How to survive graduate school

The fear of not meeting my set expectations made me furious at first but then the emotions began to evolve into a series of self-inflicting doubt.

Here are some videos about the impostor syndrome:
What is impostor syndrome and how can you can combat it? – Elizabeth Cox
The Surprising Solution to the Impostor Syndrome – Lou Solomon

Symptoms of Impostor Syndrome

From the TedTalk video of Lou Solomon, she enumerated symptoms associated with the impostor syndrome:

Anxiety. You may feel queasy as you desire to beat the deadline. When it would seem that all odds are against your favor, you fret even more.

Perfectionism. You want to get it perfect the first time. I think this is a lie we tolerate and is counter-intuitive in the long run.

Self-doubt. Being unable to reach your desired output makes you question your capacity to accomplish the task at hand.

Fear of failure. This goes with perfectionism. In this case, we often think ahead of all possible scenarios which may not be true.

Confronting the Impostor Syndrome

I was at the brink of breaking down and it seemed that accepting the despair was the only reasonable thing for me to do. I even opened up myself to the possibility of not making it to the marker I set for myself (surrender only hurts your ego).

However, I did three things to confront the impostor syndrome:

Give it a try (again). Rejection after rejection, it was a lot easier to just give in and give up. I could have and maybe should have after being rejected three times in a row. But it came to me that I should only give up if all the possible solutions are exhausted. Therefore try to solve the problem again (even if it is for the last time) so that you won’t regret wasting the chance of finding the solution you deeply covet.

Talk to family. It is easy to get lost in our own thoughts too especially in times of despair. In times like these, it is a gift to have our parents remind us of the fundamentals of life. Being honest and open to our families about our situation not only allows us to vent our frustrations and self-doubt but it also allows us to see the situation from a different perspective (their perspective). Seeking their advice helps us to have a clearer view of who we are in this lifetime.

Go back to the Word of God. Fear immobilizes us. However, reminding ourselves of God’s promises helps us to recall how God has been faithful in our lives. Reading His Word also helps us to remember our real identity – removing all self-doubt and feeling of fraudulence.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9 NLT

Wrap Up

  • Acknowledge the symptoms. If we don’t give them a name, we can trick ourselves that they don’t matter and then suffer the consequences. It is important that we recognize them so that we know how to deal with them.
  • Confront the impostor syndrome. Despite of our anxiety, perfectionism, self-doubt, and fear of failure, it really doesn’t hurt (like we assume it would) to try solving the problem again. Talking to our families also reminds us of our grassroots and thereby removing all these feelings of fraudulence. Most importantly, God’s Word assures us that He will be forever faithful in our lives as long as we remain in Him.

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