Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two part series. Below is an interview between Dr. Angie Carrick and Dr. Jaime Hope on the topic of Imposter Syndrome.
A: Dr. Hope, why did you become passionate about speaking on Imposter Syndrome?
J: Dr. Carrick, thanks for allowing me to be a part of this! You are doing such important things and I appreciate it! I remember role call on the first day of medical school. As they were reading names, I suddenly had this fear that mine wasn’t going to be called…that they would tap me on the shoulder and tell me they made a mistake and a more qualified student would be taking my seat. Of course that didn’t happen but to be in a room with such outstanding students, all with long lists of impressive accomplishments affected me. Instead of feeling like I was rising up to the challenge, I felt like an imposter! I had never discovered a new chemical, I had not opened orphanages in 3rd world countries, how did my application make it through? At the time, it was hard to see the awesomeness in my own accomplishments because they were familiar and what other people had done sounded new and exciting. I worked hard in my training and generally enjoyed it, but occasionally my mind would wander back to wondering if I belong. It wasn’t until I was an Attending that I heard the words “Imposter Syndrome” and started to read about it. I cautiously started chatting with others about it and lo and behold, I wasn’t the only one! In fact, it was WAY more common than I realized. Objectively successful people like Sharyl Sandberg, Albert Einstein, and Emma Watson have publically discussed imposter feelings. I didn’t want anyone to feel alone like I did, as if they have to hide some awful secret. I have learned the signs and symptoms and I am dedicated to helping others fight them like I have!
A: How did you develop the ways to fight ‘automatic negative thoughts’ about personal successes?
J: The first step was to recognize that they exist. Those things that pop into your head before you realize it is happening. For example, if you are self-conscious about a particular part of your appearance, your eyes will go to that part in the mirror or in pictures in a nanosecond. If you are uncomfortable accepting compliments, your auto-reply with be a deferment or self-deprecating comment. You do these things in your head and out loud. I challenge anyone to spend 3 days being very conscious of (and even writing down) the first thing that pops into your head when: you look in a mirror or at a picture, when someone gives you a compliment, and when you are met with a challenge. You will be surprised when you realize this auto-pilot voice has been running the ship. Once you recognize that, it’s time to take back control. You are the boss of your thoughts!! It takes practice but replacing the self-negativity and meanness with appreciation and gratitude will change your life! Also, keep a ‘greatest hits’ folder, either a physical folder or a computer file. Fill it with lists of your accomplishments and achievements, thank you letters you’ve received, and other things that you have earned. You will have mountains of objective evidence that you have done great things, and you can refer to it anytime you are feeling doubts. Lastly, talk to others!!! I can’t emphasize this enough! This syndrome exists because it lurks in the dark. Have an “ANT” buddy to help each other continue to recognize and eradicate these junk thoughts.
A: Do you feel like you are overcoming Imposter Syndrome yourself?
J: It is a work in progress! I look at it like recovery. I’ll be doing well for a while and then occasionally slip back into the negative self-deprecating thoughts. I definitely practice what I preach!! I use mantras, fight my ANTS, shake off comparisons, and stop should-ing all over myself when I feel my confidence getting low. It will never be perfect…nor should anyone want to aspire to this unattainable ideal! I’ve become much more accepting of my flaws and finally have given myself permission to embrace the good. And I love helping others do the same!
A: Are there any references you recommend reading on Imposter Syndrome for someone wanting more information?
J: Some of my favorite books (I usually listen to the audiobook version…so easy to get some good reading in while I’m driving, exercising, and doing chores like laundry) I read a LOT ☺.
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
- Mastering your Mean Girl by Melissa Ambrosini
- Women Don’t Ask, Negotiation and the Gender Divide by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever
- Presence by Amy Cuddy
- The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
- The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young
- The Confidence Gap by Steven Hayes
A huge thanks to Dr. Hope for taking time to answer all these questions so candidly! I loved learning more about the syndrome but even more I enjoyed getting to know you. I admire your passion and your skills in giving presentations. I feel like there are several women just like Dr. Hope I have met at conferences that have taken the time to sit down and talk to me about their journey, answer my questions and mentor me. That’s what I love about the FeminEM community…everyone helping propel each other towards their goals and teach one another about their areas of expertise.
A version of this article was originally published in ACOEP’s newsletter “The Pulse.”