Imposters in Advanced Degree Jobs
Okay, so you got through college — well done! You may have even gotten a master’s degree — a big congrats for that accomplishment! You got a great job and make good money. But it all goes to student loans, doesn’t it? If you’re feeling out of place when you look at your peers (they look so successful; there’s no way they are struggling financially like you are, right?), you’re not as alone as you may feel.
It takes a lot of work, time and money to get a college degree of any level. Especially to get advanced degrees that require testing just to get into the program, graduates have no doubt earned their degrees and proven that they belong where they worked hard to get.
But they don’t always see it that way.
Imposter syndrome is a mental phenomenon in which someone feels they don’t fit in somewhere, even though evidence proves they do. Feelings of insecurity can stem from a lack of confidence about skill level, experience or even financial belonging.
Marked by comparisons (based solely on appearance with little evidence) between themselves and their peers, people with imposter syndrome feel like frauds. They fear that any mistake will reveal what they really are and that they have failed. Despite a track record of high achievement, people who experience imposter feelings often fall into procrastination and perfectionism.
An article on MarketWatch described the story of a man with imposter syndrome. He immigrated and worked so hard to earn a master’s degree, thanks in part to student loans, in chemical engineering — not an easy accomplishment. When he entered the workforce, he hid his student loan debt because he was ashamed that he could barely survive financially.
The disconnect between his work life and home life perpetuated his feeling that he didn’t belong at work. All because of the student loans he took out to get through college. His degree and accomplishments made him appear successful, the way he perceived his peers, but his student loan debt countered any feeling of accomplishment. So he hid his loans from his peers to appear just like them.
For some, talking about imposter feelings will help you cope with them. Talking about student loans is beneficial for a similar reason: at the very least you’ll get some comfort from talking. In the best case, whoever you talk to will have a suggestion to help.
There are many ways to lessen the burden of student loans, but for those with imposter syndrome, the important thing is to focus on your accomplishments and cultivate a feeling that you belong where you are. It’s hard, but worth it in the end.
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