There I was, about to present at Duke University Medicine Grand Rounds for the first time. I was about to share a few interesting cases in front of a room full of some of the brightest minds I had ever met. There would likely be at least one or two Nobel laureates in attendance.
And then… that little voice entered my head again. “This is it! This is it! They’ll finally call you out for what you are [A FRAUD]! You know you don’t belong here. You don’t even look or talk like any of them. It was all luck. They’ll get you this time!”
That pesky Imposter Syndrome had reared its ugly head at me once again. I thought I had defeated it during medical school and again during residency but it seemed the higher up I went, it came back with a vengeance. So, as before, I had to go back on the attack. Here are a few strategies that have (and continue) to help me.
1. Recognize There is a Problem
As we discussed in the prior blog, understanding you are dealing with imposter syndrome is essential for fixing the problem. Again, this is a very common experience affecting roughly 70% of the general population. High achieving individuals (such as premeds) are especially vulnerable. Those who allow it to fester tend to avoid anxiety-provoking situations and this may ultimately hurt them. Taking the assessment at the end of the last blog can help you know if this is something you are dealing with. Once you have established that this is an issue, then we may proceed. If you can pinpoint what has precipitated these feelings then you can learn to fight back. For those who have felt as though they were always judged and critiqued by others, you may need to recognize this and confront it head-on. For many, you are fighting a larger, complex societal system filled with biases against people who look like you, doing what you do. This is unfortunate and can make you feel isolated and very out of place at times but stay encouraged my friend. If you allow it, this can actually provide a huge motivational source to becoming the best physician you can be.
2. Build Your Confidence
This is at the very crux of the problem. As mentioned, a lot of us who have experienced or continue to experience imposter syndrome developed this after many years of exposure to a trigger. Therefore, one can’t expect it will be resolved overnight. There are a few things I have used successfully to build self-esteem. I adopted a number of them while observing many well-respected physicians in medical school. It wasn’t always the case that they were the wisest but they exuded great confidence that took them a long way.
a. Dress sharp
b. Have good posture
c. Sit towards the front of class
d. Walk fast
e. Work out
f. Find a positive friend you can be open with
g. Mentor others
Think of the most confident person you know. Do they share these characteristics? Are there other traits confident individuals in your life poses? By incorporating these habits, you will begin to feel more confident in yourself and this will project to those around you. Your biggest challenge now will be to avoid being overconfident.
3. Change Your Mindset
Once you have recognized your problem, faced it head-on, and built your self-esteem, you will automatically begin viewing the world differently. You will realize that this was no mistake. You deserve to be here and worked your butt off. You will realize that you are amongst an esteemed group for making it to college, medical school, residency, etc.. Why compete with anyone? Realize that others are not infatuated with you nor are they expecting you to fail. Stop comparing yourself with others and simply focus on being the best YOU that you can be. Humble yourself always. Step out of your comfort zone and accept challenges rather than avoid them. Take time to review your CV or PreMed STAR profile to appreciate how accomplished you truly are. Hopefully this allows you to realize that you are a star after all.
So, there you have it. These were strategies that helped me combat the imposter syndrome. Back to my Grand Rounds presentation. I stood out in front of my peers and attendings that Friday morning, recognized that I am the expert, and ROCKED IT!
I sure hope this helped. I’d love to hear your thoughts, battles you’ve faced and tips you have used to overcome the imposter syndrome. Feel free to message me or comment below.
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