I am a fraud.

I hope by this time in your life you have heard of the imposter syndrome. Do you have difficulty internalizing praise? Do you believe you are not skilled despite your successes? Do you think success if for other people and not for you?

If you answered yes to any of these… I just diagnosed you. You are a fraud too.

When I was first accepted into my doctoral program, I was beyond excited. As the reality set in, I lived deeper in my thoughts “What the hell are you doing?” “Do you know how much this is?” “You are the low man on the totem pole.” The imposter took over for the first time in about five years. The imposter made me feel (and I allowed him or her to make me feel this way) like the token caucasion 29-year old woman.

As classmates began introducing themselves online, the imposter took over. To the point where I couldn’t sleep because of self-doubt. I am learning amongst the brightest people: CEOs, Presidents, Presidents, and so on. “Hi, I’m Sue. I work at a sorority headquarters.” You all, I literally stressed about this. The imposter made me feel like I had to overcompensate. I read one book ahead of time and felt so proud I could raise my hand on skype to say I read it. All of it. Yay overachieving!

I will say I did have a happy moment. We had to comment on our peers intro videos. After class, I got an email from a peer saying “It was nice to meet you. I really enjoyed your point of view tonight in class. I look forward to learning from you.” OMG - ME?!

When my doctoral immersion trip kicked off, it was a room full of type-A personalities. It was a room full of perfectionists and go-getters. It was a room full of people wondering how and why they got accepted. It was a room full of people fearful of mistakes and being unsuccessful in this endeavor. We have like 100 members of the fraud club, who else wants to join? Why couldn’t we just accept we got into a rigorous program through merit? Why couldn’t we accept we deserved to be there?

My nerves finally settled as I met classmates and professors. All of the professors knew we had to be reassured. They knew the imposter was taking over each person in the audience. Even a male (sorry, I am gender stereotyping) said he felt like a fraud. Can I get an amen that a man is being vulnerable? Imposter syndrome can happen to men. Hot damn, it is 2018.

As my emotions settled, it felt good to refocus on my why. Can you tell I am a leadership professional? It felt good to immerse myself in learning and intellectual conversations. It felt good to be among fellow imposters. It felt even better hugging them at the end of the immersion. We are in this together, for the next three years. We got accepted, we paid the bill, we enrolled in classes and we are here. Bye bye fraud.

I had Starbucks coffee everyday. I treated myself to a PSL with all the calories too. And yes, I did power poses in the mirror each morning before class.


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