Shaking Off the Sham

fourth year paria fakhrai

photo by sofi gratas

photo by sofi gratas

My heart beats so loudly in my chest, I hear its echoes bounce off the walls of my head. So loudly, in fact, I fear the sound may escape out of my ears for the people next to me to hear. Names get called, one by one, and before I know it, I’m the one being ushered to take the stage. Adrenaline pulsing through my body drowns out the noise around me, as I instinctively put one foot in front of the other, and make my way to the center. I shake the hand of the man in front of me, remembering to flash a quick smile to the crowd as he extends his arm forward to hand me the rolled piece of symbolic paper adorned with the bright red bow. Every parent dreams of the day they get to take a picture of this moment, after all. But, just then, before I even get the chance to grab the diploma, the man turns before the crowd and tears the bow-wrapped paper into shreds. My heart sinks into my stomach.

They knew it. They knew I was a fraud, a fake, an imposter. They saw right through me and waited for the perfect moment to reveal my illegitimacy in front of the entire world—my friends, family, classmates.

My biggest fear finally turned into a reality.

Okay, so... maybe that’s a little dramatic, but if you’re like me, you know the imposter syndrome can really and truly feel this way sometimes. Even if you have all the evidence laid out in front of you, you still feel inadequate and undeserving of the accomplishments you’ve achieved or the place in life you’re in. I can do all of the right things, go all the extra miles, work harder and longer, and still feel like I’ve gotten to a lot of places in my life out of pure luck or chance.

It can be really hard to break this harmful mentality and realizing your own accomplishments are valid and that you are worthy of them. It can be especially hard if you find yourself characterized by any one of the five subgroups. Dr. Valerie Young, an expert in the subject, categorizes people who find themselves in this state of mind—the perfectionist, the superwoman/man, the natural genius, the soloist, and the expert. Her book on the subject, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Imposter Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, has honestly changed my life. As someone who can partly identify with all the subcategories she lists, her book has helped immensely in breaking the barriers to realizing my own potential and realizing I am a badass because I have worked hard to be that badass. While gender studies have shown imposter syndrome tends to be more common in women, this book can help all genders alike in identifying their bad habits or patterns holding them back from their full potential. Take a deep, long look at all you have accomplished till this point in your life. It is not by chance, or luck, or mistake. You created your reality, because you worked hard to create that reality. Isn’t it time to realize that?