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Kick Impostor Syndrome to the Curb

“What the heck am I doing here? I am not as smart as these people,” I muttered to myself about 20 minutes into my first class of law school. I had just watched two people answer questions from the professor with depth and understanding that seemed greatly superior to anything I could have come up with. I was intimidated. I felt like there was no way I was a match for my classmates. What in the world was I doing there? I felt like an impostor. Have you been there? There’s actually a name for it – Impostor Syndrome. It’s when you allow negative self-talk even though there is evidence to the contrary. In my law school case, I had graduated from college with a solid 3.78 GPA. I had passed the LSAT easily with a great score. I had been working for several years and had earned numerous promotions. Ask anyone who knew me, they would tell you that I was intelligent and articulate and capable of anything I set my mind on. So why did I feel like a fraud sitting in class? If you don’t nip Impostor Syndrome in the bud when it shows up, it can hold you back. It will make you lose opportunities, it will make you stay in the shadows when you should be in the spotlight. Kicking Impostor Syndrome to the curb involves challenging your self-talk. When a thought pops up that is contrary to evidence, you’ve got to be aware enough to challenge it. You need to stop that thought and remind yourself why that thought is false. It’s helpful to develop a habit of reciting or reading positive affirmations daily. It’s helpful to have a journal where you can record your negative thoughts and delve into when, how, and why those false narratives show up. Often, you’ll be able to decipher a pattern. When Impostor Syndrome strikes, you need to reframe your picture – fast! Until you can get to the root of your insecurity, you’ll have to learn how to work around it. Often that means re-defining your role in the situation. Instead of feeling the pressure of having to know everything, remind yourself that you are learning and know just a little bit more than the next person. Or cast yourself in the role of a reporter or casual observer. You are simply there to learn and share what you’ve learned. Whatever you do, do not let those negative thoughts stay in your head unchallenged. Remind yourself that you are worthy of being in that room, on that stage, at that table. No one is better than you. You have skills and talents and experiences that they don’t. You absolutely belong there.

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