The recent boom in popularity of the online game Among Us has dominated charts around the world. Based on a common party game called Mafia, it is a social deduction game featuring an imposter, who up to 10 other players work together to identify. How to be the best imposter? Blend in. After playing this game, I couldn’t help but be reminded how common it is for women in science to feel like an imposter, and how much of a toll it can take on us as we enter workspaces that can feel incredibly intimidating. I found myself feeling like I had to blend in and pretend like I knew what I was doing, instead of asking for help because I was afraid I would look weak or incapable.
I recently spoke with one of the physical therapists that I intern under at a local hospital who expressed similar thoughts. She graduated from Columbia University’s DPT program, one of the most prestigious in the country. She helps all kinds of patients from those orthopedic injuries, to pediatrics, but she specializes in treating multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neural condition. She is one of the people I look up to most and go to advice for, so it was surprising to me when I heard her express how she often feels like she never knows what to do in the clinical setting, or like she is less competent than her colleagues. Keep in mind, she is one of the most sought after physical therapists in San Diego. However despite all her successes, she felt like she was a fraud, and it was only a matter of time before her luck ran out and everyone else would figure it out too.
This is a widely experienced phenomenon called imposter syndrome, which is estimated to affect about 70% of people at some point in their careers according to an article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science. Although imposter syndrome affects men and women alike, it has been shown that women are uniquely affected by it in increasing numbers. In situations where you are one of only a few people in a meeting, classroom, or workplace who looks or sounds like you, then it is natural to feel like you don’t totally fit in. Women and minorities have also felt an added pressure to represent their entire “group.” Instead of taking your self doubt as a sign of inability to perform, recognize that it may just be a normal response on the receiving end of internalized social stereotypes.
If you identify with this, here are some ways I’ve chosen to combat imposter syndrome that you might find helpful too!
How to deal with imposter syndrome