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Monday, April 23, 2018

Imposter Syndrome

The idea for the following poem came from a freewriting exercise during poetry club. My students and I listed all the things we were not, and I wrote "confident." This is the result of musing on that subject:

Imposter Syndrome
by Amber Counts, April 2018

Searching for symptoms on WebMD
Often results in one diagnosis:
I’m dying.
Most roads lead to cancer.
But what about psychological symptoms?
Patchwork quilting,
Ordered chaos.
Symptoms touch. Overlap.
But no cancer here.
Well, almost no cancer.
Though ailments may fester and grow
like cankerous sores on the psyche,
They often defy simple self-diagnosis.

Of one diagnosis, I am sure.
I suffer from “Imposter Syndrome.”
The symptoms?
  • Perfectionism
  • Overworking
  • Undermining one’s own achievements
  • Discounting praise
  • Burnout
  • Sleep deprivation
Common thoughts?
  • “I must not fail.”
  • “I feel inadequate.”
  • “I got lucky.”
Traits?
  • Diligence
  • Giftedness
  • Lack of display of confidence
Despite any amount of evidence of their successes,
“Imposters” remain convinced that they are
Unworthy of such praise.
This explains why I graduated
Summa cum laude
And still question my potential.

According to Wikipedia (ever the resource for accuracy),
Imposter experience may be accompanied by
Anxiety, stress, or depression,  
But it is not classified as its own mental disorder.

I would disagree, for this syndrome
Touches my life everyday.
With every accomplishment
With every ounce of external feedback
That I receive
And then doubt.

But it’s not a disorder and
Cannot be found in the DSM.
Interesting, then, that the best ways
To treat this non-disorder include
Writing therapy and group psychotherapy
to alleviate a person’s
Sense of inadequacy.

They say that feeling like an imposter
Can positively affect career advancement
Due, no doubt, to constant diligence
And search for authentic success.
Famous “imposters” reportedly include:
Maya Angelou, Tom Hanks,
John Green, and Emma Watson.

Surely this shows the malignancy of this non-disorder,
For if greats such as these cannot fathom
Their own worth,
Then what chance do I have?


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