written by
Maria Pham

I Have Impostor Syndrome

self-improvement 3 min read , September 30, 2020

Re: July 26, 2020 event: How do you handle impostor syndrome?

I don’t know how I became the person that I am. Every day, I question myself as to why I haven’t achieved happiness. I was raised to be loving and caring. I was told to live my life how I wanted. I wasn’t given expectations. If I failed, I wouldn’t be punished. I was free to be who I wanted to be as long as my family and friends were happy and proud. Yet, I’m unhappy.

I once believed my calling in life was to make people happy.  All I wanted was to be loved, trusted, and relied on by others. The thought of putting myself first above others sounded nonsensical and selfish. If I could make a single person happy, I would be pleased. It’s not for personal gain or to feel good about me. I do it because I love helping, listening, and supporting family, friends and colleagues, and even strangers. Their happiness was my happiness or so I thought.

I’m not important or special. I’m average. Whatever my accomplishments, I felt I didn’t deserve them even though I worked hard to achieve them. Anyone could replace me. What gave me the right to be here? I struggle to show my sad, vulnerable, and broken side to others. Instead, I create a persona of what I think is the happy version of myself. It’s easy to put on a mask with a smile and always be cautious of the moment when I’ll be called out as a fake.

For years, I wondered if there was a term for what I experienced. A YouTuber finally opened my eyes when they said they have Imposter Syndrome. I researched it and found my answer:

I, Maria Pham, have Imposter Syndrome.

Coincidentally, a friend invited me to join an online conversation event, called “How do you handle impostor syndrome”. For two hours, they openly and deeply discuss a hard topic. Topics range from social justice and racism to self-improvement and how to manage change.  Surprisingly, the next event was on imposter syndrome.

I attended only to learn and get tips on how to deal with it. I wasn’t alone. Others experienced it. People shared personal stories and knowledge — each expressing personal struggles and how they handled it. In listening, I saw the light and felt the weight on my shoulders disappear.  A part of me told myself to shut up, while my other side spoke up. I thought no one would care about my story and experiences. They all listened, asked questions, and encouraged me. I felt safe. I felt like I could take off my mask and be my true self in front of them because they accepted me.

Sharing your story is the first step to coping with imposter syndrome. Taking this one step seemed impossible, but I did. This group of amazing individuals helped me gain more courage and confidence to continue my mental health journey and pursue being happier.

To get past impostor syndrome, I need to stop comparing myself to friends, colleagues, or family members due to the traumas I've faced in my life. There's no competition about who is better. I can’t win if I constantly compare. I plan to apply one tip I learned, which is “Don’t break the chain”. I’ll accept my small wins every day.

Artwork by Maria Pham

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Psychology impostor syndrome mental health