Lecture shares tips to tackle impostor syndrome

Mackenzie Bodell

Dr. Dawn Bratsch-Prince gave her lecture, Impostor Syndrome: Coping Strategies for High Achievers, Wednesday night at the 10th annual Graduate and Professional Student Conference.

One of the conference committee members, Ryan Everett, said Bratsch-Prince’s lecture was “part of an interrelated effort to address the mental and physical well-being of our graduate students and researchers within our Iowa State community.”

Bratsch-Prince has over 30 years of experience as a faculty member and more than 20 years of experience in higher education. Bratsch-Prince does not claim to be an expert backed by research but says she does have a lot of experience with impostor syndrome and learning how to overcome it. 

“Every single day, I fight with my inner critic as I tell myself that I have no idea what I’m doing, that I have no business being in this leadership role,” Bratsch-Prince said. “That is not an exaggeration, but I make every effort not to give into that inner critic, that inner voice telling me that I’m an impostor.”

Impostor syndrome was first described in the 1970s as attributing one’s accomplishments to luck rather than ability and fearing that others will eventually find them out as a fraud. 

Those who struggle with impostor syndrome may have difficulty internalizing and accepting their success and may dismiss those successes as undeserved. Impostor syndrome is very common in those with high achievements. 

Bratsch-Prince spoke about five types of impostorism and how they are each harmful in their own way. 

The perfectionist may set impossibly high goals and expectations for themselves. This may be harmful in a teamwork environment as they may push those expectations onto others and themselves. 

The natural genius may expect to know everything without even being taught. They feel they have to get it right on the first try. 

The expert feels as though they will never know enough. Women may fall victim to this type of impostorism more often. 

“There’s research that shows that women believe they need to be 150% qualified before considering themselves up to the task,” Bratsch-Prince said. “They disqualify themselves as not having enough knowledge, experience or expertise.”

The rugged individualist wants to do it all by themselves with no help. In the progressional world, teamwork is necessary, and those who identify as a rugged individualist may struggle with that. 

Finally, the super-individual feels the need to juggle family, work and personal issues; they have to do it all. 

Bratsch-Prince gave four strategies for those struggling with impostorism. The first strategy was to talk about it. Bratsch-Prince says that talking about feelings of impostorism can give those feelings less power over oneself.  

The second strategy was to acknowledge one’s values and strengths. Bratsch-Prince encourages people struggling to think of the times in their life when they have felt the happiest, the proudest or the most satisfied. When individuals focus on these strengths, it can help them build confidence and satisfaction in themselves.

According to Bratsch-Prince, the third strategy is one of the most challenging strategies to implement: celebrating one’s successes. Most people do not enjoy talking about their successes. 

The final strategy discussed was the importance of implementing a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset means seeing risk-taking, challenges, shortcomings and struggles as an opportunity to grow rather than the end of a road.

The key takeaways from the lecture were to recognize that impostorism exists, embrace positive feedback, attribute one’s successes and accept that one person cannot do everything, and it is okay to ask for help.