Impostor Syndrome

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Please, Call Me by My Name

The Impostor Syndrome

by Angeline Yambao and Jaime Gabrielle

Illustration by Tomi Diano

If you please, call me by my name,

Before your eyes come to settle upon my sacred bones, 

Gently lend me your ears as I place my mouth close to your heart, 

As I utter words of promises, of obnoxious feelings, of silenced truths, 

Hiding under the layers of one’s dried skin. 

If you please, call me by my name,

As your piercing gaze settles upon this humble form, 

As I make oaths of solemn vows to be thee now and always. 

If you please, call me by my name,

I ask of you to look away, cover your ears and turn your back. 

As I grieve the price of love for every waking hour, 

For every passing moment of time, and every breath I take. 

If you please, call me by my name,

Let this be enough evidence, 

No matter how many times, 

I had come to leave and grace you with my absence, 

The torment I carry it with, 

I mourn what had come to pass us by, 

I mourn the future which had not come, 

I mourn the soles of my feet as I had learned to run away, 

But most of all, I mourn, 

For what I have become.

If you please, call me by my name,

There are whispers which bind me, 

Trailing subtle kisses along the surface of my skin, 

For it leaves traces of subtle bruises, of not being enough, 

For not being able to satiate the thirst of the lungs and the greed of these hands. 

If you please, call me by my name,

Etch my name into my palms, least that I forget. 

That I am solely, more so than enough.

Illustration by Arra Micca Angeles

The journey to finding one’s form of self has always been a recurring theme in people’s lives, wherein I have come to wonder, do statements like “I do not know” or “I am still trying” bring you a subtle form of comfort and peace? 

Some of us may find ourselves searching for that confidence to rise and deliver what is expected of us as students and leaders, but we judge ourselves before we have the chance to show our talent. We fear the idea of meeting some standard that is unreachable through all efforts regardless of our true aptitude and capability.  Some refer to this as self-doubt, but psychology has coined this emotion.  

We call this the Imposter Syndrome, a term that was first used by psychologists, Suzanna Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s.  Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which an individual doubts their level of skills, form of talents, or sense of accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.  Despite their external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are individuals who are posing as frauds, and do not deserve all they have come to achieved.  Impostorism is commonly accompanied by short-term feelings of anxiety and depression. However, how this phenomenon comes to happen remains a mystery for everyone as there seem to be numerous root causes.  

Mark Manson, the infamous author of #1 International Best-Seller, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*CK, A counter intuitive approach to living a good life, states the following:

 “Self- Improvement and success often occur together. But that does not mean they are the same thing.  As our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be best, better than the rest.  Be smarter, faster, richer, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and withdraw twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and a half kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that’s likely to save the planet one day”. 

But when you stop and really think about it, conventional life advice —all the positive and happy self-help stuff we hear all the time—is actually fixating on what you lack. It happens to laser in on what you perceive your personal shortcomings and failures to already be, and then emphasize them for you.  

You learn about the best ways to make money because you feel you do not have enough money already. You stand in front of the mirror and repeat affirmations saying that you are beautiful because you feel as though you are not beautiful already. You follow dating and relationship advice because you feel that you are unlovable already. You try goofy visualizations exercises about being more successful because you feel as though you are not successful enough already. 

Ironically, this fixation on the positive—–on what is better, what is superior—only serves to remind us over and over again of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be. After all, no truly happy person feels the need to stand in front of a mirror and recite that she is happy. She just is. 

Before your mindset spirals into self-sabotage, find new opportunities to push yourself forward not because you fear failure, but because you are striving for greatness.