Influence of School on Imposter Syndrome

By: Vivian Wang

The celebratory feeling after a successful job interview and landing an internship that is shortly accompanied with feelings of self-doubt can be perfectly encompassed into one phrase: imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, also known as the imposter phenomenon, refers to a personal mindset and psychological pattern centered on self-doubt and questioning of one’s accomplishments. For instance, imposter syndrome is most commonly seen when an individual believes that all of their success revolves around pure luck rather than their personal strengths and capabilities.

At Valencia High School, many students experience imposter syndrome without fully realizing it. Comments such as “I only got a 95 percent on the quiz, but it was just because I was lucky and guessed” or “I feel like I should have gotten a worse grade on the test” perfectly encompass the meaning of imposter syndrome. Students at Valencia, especially International Baccalaureate students, learn in a competitive environment on a daily basis.

International Baccalaureate students naturally feel a sense of competition when surrounded by students who all equally enjoy academically-rigorous classes and earn equally high marks on tests and homework assignments. Imposter syndrome inherently makes its appearance when students begin comparing test scores and translating one another’s worth into a test score. Time and time again, high-achieving students find themselves backed into a corner, with their mind telling them that their positive results are unmerited.

The effects of imposter syndrome can directly affect one’s mental health, especially when self-doubt overshadows self-confidence and self-worth. One notable instance of imposter syndrome impacting mental health manifests in destroyed, inconsistent sleep schedules of high school students.

Students who seek perfection in their schoolwork spend their after school hours completing homework from the moment that they finish the school day to the moment that they call it a night at times as late as 3 a.m. in the morning. In such a competitive environment like the IB bubble, students inherently equate staying up later to accomplishing more tasks.

The negative feedback loop of constantly seeking perfection in all homework assignments eventually leads to burnout, so it is essential to find a balance between minimalism and perfectionism when considering academics and all homework assignments.

Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome, so the million dollar question is “How can imposter syndrome be overcome?”, especially in this day and age where time moves so quickly and consistently maintaining a busy schedule has become the socially accepted norm. To overcome imposter syndrome, one of the steps that can be taken is to avoid comparing oneself to others, whether it be through test scores or personal accomplishments. Similarly, another approach to addressing imposter syndrome lies in learning how to take constructive criticism. Viewing constructive criticism as opportunities for self-growth allows for room for improvement, all while understanding how to set reasonable and tangible goals in the long run.

As writer Melody J. Wilding from The Muse explains in the piece “5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One)”, one of the most common forms of imposter syndrome manifests primarily in a superwoman or superman, a type of individual who always strives to excel in all areas and outcompete others. Instances of a superwoman or superman experiencing imposter syndrome include working overtime into late hours or finding freetime as an excuse for not working.

Instead of comparing test scores, transform this exhaustive energy into a positive mindset, whether it be through studying with friends together or reaching out to friends when trying to understand a concept covered in class. Celebrating a friend’s latest internship offer with a trip to eat ice cream instead of becoming jealous over their accomplishments. Recognizing one’s accomplishments and self growth through adversity transcends far beyond comparing oneself to others.