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Squashing Imposter Syndrome

*Original post released on 11/21/2022

Many of you may have heard about imposter syndrome, whether or not you have been affected by it. This destructive mindset is all too common in nursing school and within the nursing profession, so I wanted to take some time to touch on what it is, why it’s an issue, and what you can do to improve the effects of imposter syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome? It’s the persistent inability to see and/or feel as if you are good enough or are able to or qualified to do your job. It can also be a false sense of the lack of credibility or ability. For example, you’ve just been accepted into nursing school after competing against hundreds of applicants for a slot in the program, yet you feel like you aren’t good enough to be included in your cohort. Or maybe you’ve gotten a slot as a new grad resident in an ICU yet you feel as though you can’t cut it in that department, despite having studied and worked so hard to get that position.

So, why is imposter syndrome an issue for nursing students and nurses? This mentality causes you to doubt your own abilities despite the training and education you’ve received which can be detrimental to your focus and patient care. This also means you likely tend to belittle your achievements and successes, leading you to doubt your ability to have future achievements. You’ll often spend too much time worrying about others’ opinions about you…to an extent where it becomes unhealthy. This can increase your anxiety, especially in regard to your job or school performance. Lastly, one of the most important issues caused by imposter syndrome is the fact that it encourages negative self-talk, self-doubt, and other self-destructive behaviors.

There are things you can do to improve your imposter syndrome mentality, however. Be understanding with yourself as you would with anyone else. You are allowed to ask questions, make mistakes, learn, grow, and be a beginner at something. This means you need to retrain and reframe your mindset to be more forgiving, supportive, and conducive to growth. Try to let go of perfectionist ideals and accept that you cannot be perfect. Celebrate all of your wins, no matter how small, and give yourself credit where it is due and/or earned. If you make a mistake, learn from it and share the situation with others as a “teaching moment;” learn from your past and move forward. And lastly, surround yourself with positive people and immerse yourself in a productive and supportive environment.

Imposter syndrome is a beast that’s hard to get rid of. You have to constantly be self-aware so that you can catch yourself in that mentality and actively modify it. Instead of dwelling on the thought that you’re not smart enough to truly be in your nursing program, change your mindset to think about how the faculty believed in your ability to succeed so much that they accepted you into their program. Instead of feeling like you can’t cut it as an ICU nurse, change your mindset to think about how the unit director believed your capabilities and intelligence would be an asset to their team. Managing imposter syndrome is all about the perspective you allow yourself to have. Retraining the mind is like any other exercise for the body; you have to repeatedly do it until it becomes muscle memory and improves your emotional and mental health.

Until next time, happy studying!

Andra Alyse

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