imposter syndrome graduate students

Unmasking the Real You

By Sandi Coyne-Gilbert, MBA DM
MS Organizational Leadership Program Director, Goodwin College

Imposter Syndrome: It’s a problem that affects individuals in all types of organizations and from all walks of life. Often associated with people who are viewed as extremely successful, it’s existent and rarely talked about. Mike Myers of Saturday Night Live fame shared, “I still believe that at any time the no-talent police will come and arrest me.”

From Winston Churchill, to Serena Williams, to Michelle Obama, to Lady Gaga, individuals feel plagued by feelings of self-doubt and disconnect from their accomplishments. To outsiders, these individuals appear self-assured and confident, but beneath the calm surface lies an ugly reality: a person who believes that everything is a lie, and that they are a fraud.

First defined in 1978 by Doctors Paulina Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes, the Imposter Syndrome was “unmasked” in a study of 150 very successful women. In this study, each woman believed her success was nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. These women were unable to enjoy the fruits of their labors, and so they merely continued to do their work while fearing the possibility of being unmasked. Now, from personal coaches to medical school personnel, the Imposter Syndrome that was once a dirty little secret has become better understood. Recent researchers estimate that as much as 80 percent of the population will deal with this feeling of being an imposter at least once in their life. Some will find it a permanent part of their responses.

Typically, people encounter Imposter Syndrome when they experience success, or embark in a new direction without any previous experience — entering into a graduate program, for example. Being accepted into a program can be an amazing high, but soon the feelings of accomplishment begin to fade, and people find themselves face-to-face with questions about whether they can do the work. Imposter Syndrome makes them feel incapable and lacking critical skills. It can paralyze even the best students or employees and keep individuals from reaching their full potential.

People encounter Imposter Syndrome when they experience success, or embark in a new direction without any previous experience — entering into a graduate program, for example.

Does Imposter Syndrome Hold You Back?
If you are considering graduate school, you need to know that you can do it. Goodwin College’s master’s degree in Organizational Leadership (MSOL) program embraces the individual leader in each person. No two people are the same, and Goodwin believes all students are leaders already, headed in a unique direction with purpose and perspective. The basis of your self-leadership is the foundation on which you will build your leadership style.

Imposter Syndrome is more than just a challenge. It is an opportunity to guide you so you can guide others as a leader. You should know that you are not alone. The students in Goodwin’s MSOL program have similar concerns and fears. The program is structured in a cohort model, meaning you will take the journey to achieving your MSOL degree with the same classmates from start to finish. Along the way, you will find support from your peers – a fundamental part of how you deal with your imposter feelings. Goodwin can help you recognize and find joy in your accomplishments and identify areas where you can grow and learn.

If Imposter Syndrome is holding you back, it’s time to do something about it. At Goodwin, we’ll help you set this debilitating feeling free. Here, you will be surrounded by people who care and will support you through your journey to self-discovery.