We All Have It: Imposter Syndrome

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“I am not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people,” John Steinbeck wrote in his diary in 1938. Maya Angelou once shared, “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out,’” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg echoed these writers’ thoughts during a public speech by saying “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud.”

How could two of the greatest American authors not consider themselves writers? And one of the most successful businesswoman in the world not successful? Imposter Syndrome, first coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, refers to the inability of high-achieving people to internalize their accomplishments: the persistent feeling that one doesn’t deserve to be where they are in life. Sound familiar? Seventy percent of people suffer from impostorism.

Throughout our entire lives we look up to inspiring people, work hard to follow in their footsteps, and aspire to reach what seems an impossible place. We interview for that job and feel like we are lying through our teeth when, in reality, we are listing real-life and very honest accomplishments. We then get the job and feel like we tricked our way in. Or we get invited to that party and feel like we are pretending to be cooler than we are, when in reality, we were invited for a reason. Or we get accepted to a college and are convinced that the admissions committee was high when they read the application. No, they accepted you because they want you. These climactic moments should be moments that prove our worth, but instead they make us question our worthiness all over again.

Imposter Syndrome is much more prevalent among certain demographics. Sensibly, racial minorities and women often feel a heightened sense of fraudulence. In fact, its usage was originally only used in reference to women feeling out of place while working in male-dominated industries. While it is now agreed to not be a gender-exclusive phenomenon, clinical experience has shown it to occur in much higher frequency and intensity among women. However, a wide array of other factors can also cause someone to feel unworthy of their position in life. Perfectionism is often a common characteristic. The mentality that one needs to be the absolute best and the fear of any degree of failure sets one up for failed expectations. It’s like when we are on the first day of that job we “tricked” ourselves into, and we feel like our boss is going to “find us out” at any second because we don’t know how to do everything yet. High-achieving people are so accustomed to being experts in everything that any sign of unfamiliarity gives them the feeling that they are unworthy of their place.

However, don’t be nervous if you feel like you fit the bill for impostorism. At least you don’t suffer from the Dunning-Kruger effect in which self-confident people are unable to recognize their own ignorance.

Jessica Collet, a professor of sociology at University of Notre Dame says “They don’t feel at all like frauds—they feel they know exactly what they’re doing and how could other people not know what they’re doing. But it turns out, they don’t know enough to know how little they know.” In essence, “people that are too dumb to know that they’re dumb.” We all know that person and we all hate them.

So if you think you are doing everything right, maybe you should reevaluate. But the next time you feel like an imposter, just know that you’ve officially made it when you start questioning your greatness.

It’s Okay to be Offended

 

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A world in which everyone agrees with each other doesn’t exist. And if it did, life would be pretty damn boring. During the week of December 20th, a huge art installation by Kyla Dullum, hanging in the first floor hallway was hard to miss. At first glance it simply looked like a lesbian couple sharing an intimate kiss. But closer inspection revealed the background of the silhouettes to be pages of the Bible. According to Mr. Goines, by the end of the the first day he had gotten numerous complaints about the display, worried that the “ripped” pages of the Bible would offend Christian minorities. Note that the majority of complaints were from people that weren’t offended, but from people who were worried it would be offensive. One read-through of the artist’s statements to the side of the painting would affirm Dullum’s true intentions of her piece. However, when students returned to school the following week after Winter Break, the art piece was gone.

I will start off my commentary with the fact that I am not criticizing the Administration’s actions: technicalities in California State law forced the school to take down Kyla’s art piece. However, that technicality sucks. School is supposed to nurture the prospects of debate, variety of thought, and creativity — not break it down. Did Kyla’s art piece offend people? Possibly. Does that give reason to take it down? No. I’m not saying that because I’m cold-hearted or insensitive. I’m saying that because school is supposed to prepare students for the real world, a world in which homogenous thought doesn’t exist. We shouldn’t be pretending that differing opinions don’t exist, but rather encouraging passionate debate.

You don’t have to be a student of Ms. Dehart’s AP Art History class to know that art always has a meaning. It’s easy to look at Dullum’s art piece and instinctively observe a conflict between religion and sexuality. The Bible preaches against same-sex marriage, so the artist must be making a hateful statement towards religion, right? Quite the opposite. “It actually symbolizes a union between the two communities,” Dullum explains. “I grew up in the Mormon church, and certain parts of the doctrine teach that homosexuality is a sin against God. I was about 13 when I came out as pansexual, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility for defending my community.” Personal and thought-provoking, Dullum’s art piece is the opposite of hateful: it purely represents her idea of love. “I am no longer a member of the church, I don’t need to be where I’m not wanted. But there are others who desire to be there and can’t and that is something that I hope will change. Nobody should be discriminated against because of who they love.”

“But she ripped out pages of the Bible!” That’s me imitating all the hyper-sensitive faculty, scared that they will get complaints about its possible offense to God. “First of all I did not ‘rip’ out pages of the Bible. I selectively removed pages of the Bible that had meaning to me, particularly the verses condemning homosexuality.  I used Bible pages to convey the idea of religion as well as homosexuality in the hope that it would inspire people to think more consciously about the problems that exist there,” Dullum clarifies. As an artist, she had to find a way to express the conflict that exists, and the use of Bible pages was the most logical medium to use. “The Bible encourages the making of this piece, and that’s what I did”, she says.

Straying from this particular piece, I find it interesting to compare the ideas presented in Dullum’s art with the myriad other installations found in Albany High hallways. For example, consider the inspiring signs made by Amnesty International that said “Abortion is not a crime.” Or the poignant chalk drawing of a fetus in the woman’s bathroom. One could easily argue that both of these go against their belief system and their personal opinions surrounding abortion. But there is one vital difference: neither of these involve explicit reference to the Bible. Once someone offends religion, it becomes inexcusable. But why? Why is someone’s religious beliefs put on a pedestal, and somehow more important than one’s moral/personal/ethical beliefs? Why are opinions surrounding abortion, gay rights, politics allowed to be voiced, but opinions surrounding religion not? Sorry, but religious belief is not more important than any other belief system. Yes, it’s important and should be recognized. And religious students have every right to be offended by a piece that goes against their religion.

But you can’t eliminate everything that doesn’t agree with you. Welcome to the real world. “You don’t need safe-zones to protect your fragile ego. You need big, new, scary ideas that challenge your beliefs and expand your thinking. You need ideas that will offend you, hurt your feelings, stomp on your toes, and make you mad. This is necessary for growth and learning. So stop being offended by everything. Stop being a victim. Grow up.”