Extinguishing Imposterism

The little voice in the back of my mind likes to nag at me.

Lately, it’s consisted of three things:
– Purchase loupes (long overdue)
– Renew parking pass (also treading on thin ice)
– And tend to your blog.
All three things, at some point each day over the past two weeks, work their way into my conscious, then are subsequently squashed in raging dental information influx. Today I decided to finally tackle those important dental reminders while they were fresh in the mind, and low and behold, I still don’t have loupes. I do however, have a new parking pass, and I was a little shaken by what I left to smolder behind the scenes in my blog.
If you reached out to me, you amazing people, I have finally responded.
I also want to say that you are precisely why I made this platform in the first place, and I thank you for your support.
I logged on to check my emails and launch updates,
I’m staying because today, I do have a message worth sharing with the eyes of myself and my community.
Facebook likes to remind me of the memories I would otherwise have sidelined. Today, it reminded me that five years ago, I was readying myself for my first day of undergrad as a nonprofessional student.
Even if you paid me and I couldn’t tell you what I ate for dinner two weeks ago, but I do remember how I felt those days leading up to taking that very scary and foreign first step as a pre-dental student. I survived, I suppose you know that, but times have changed. Even on the night before starting dental school, I did not have as many nerves as I did five years ago. It was exciting and new, but also scary, and I found that I doubted myself a bit.
I bring up this blast from the past, because this past year, more than ever, I’ve noticed a major change in mindset that downright bothered me. I wrote about this in many prior blogs, I thought that it would go away as time went on, and it didn’t, it just got worse. My bothersome mindset was that I felt like I didn’t deserve to be where I am.
The fact of the matter is, everything leading up to this point in mine and my classmate’s lives have been at least somewhat challenging. For the sake of all of our future patient’s well-being, it better have been a damn challenge to become a dentist, should it not?
The problem is, you see those challenges while you’re going through them, not necessarily after you’ve passed them. If you have the right mindset when you’re faced with a challenge you’ll contemplate it, prepare for it, and find a way to overcome it. Time will slow down and drag on while in the midst of the challenge, but it’s very easy to forget that struggle once the challenge has been accomplished and you’ve moved on to the next task. That forgetfulness, and even the most humble mindset, is what leads to a very real, and very common issue amongst successful individuals, called Imposter Syndrome.
In Imposter Syndrome, a pattern of behavior is exposed in which a person doubts their accomplishments and competence in fear of being exposed for fraudulence, despite actual success and achievement in that person’s life.

This past summer, Imposter Syndrome was first described to me by one of our Army cadre. The captain looked at all of us and told us that we likely felt like frauds. We wore ranks on our chests and covers that were higher than anyone we had likely yet to interact with, and only a small handful of us had any prior service. He wasn’t wrong. I felt disrespectful for boarding a plane early, and refused to use military discounts for the majority of this year. I felt like I didn’t deserve it but I was wrong. While I’ve never been deployed, and my commitment doesn’t require drills and frequent trainings, it doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve to be where I am, because where I am it is the direct result of the work I put in and the achievements I have made in doing so.
I write this because I’m very aware that I am not alone in humbling my successes, and because there are eyes out there that need to read these words. If you’re worried that you’re not “good enough” for a job, or a school, or a program, make sure that you’re looking at the big picture of your accomplishments. At the end of the day, your every success, small or large does matter and you need to remember that they do.
I graduated from highschool early, went to trade school, then went to community college. I maintained a 4.0 and deans list, and didn’t think I’d get into nursing school.
I got into nursing school, had 2-3 jobs, went days without sleep every week to do so, and graduated with academic distinction.
I was worried that I wouldn’t be smart enough to excel in university courses, and told myself that if I couldn’t excel in the first year, I had to give up on dentistry.
I got into the university, completed four full years of undergrad for my bachelors degree. I graduated with six sets of chords and a medal of high achievement around my neck, a high GPA and a competitive DAT. I volunteered on the homefront and abroad, created and joined clubs, maintained two to three jobs at all times. My application to dental school was 51 pages long.
Even with that, I didn’t think that I would get into dental school.
I got interviews, got into all of my desired schools, picked my top choice, and commissioned as 2LT with a full ride army scholarship. I started school and passed the first semester, then second, then third. And sat back at the end, so superficially unimpressed with myself that I felt as though I didn’t deserve to be where I was because I didn’t “deserve” it.
My pattern of self doubt is exactly what I see when I get emails from pre-professional students, pre-dental students, and newly accepted dental students reaching out with worry.
You don’t “deserve” to be treated poorly by classmates or coworkers or friends or family.
You don’t “deserve” to be left out, or to be stolen from, or misrepresented, or misguided.
You don’t “deserve” to lose great opportunities, or have life misfortunes, or to endure unfortunate circumstances.
You DO “deserve” the accomplishments which you’ve pursued passionately, wholeheartedly, and with commitment, regardless of whether or not they remain consciously accessible at your every whim.
If you’re a student facing years of high stakes ahead, or a young professional working on grand goals, write down your accomplishments, and keep track of your goals. Keep these as a record and reminder of what you’ve weathered and where you stand as a successful individual.
If you need to hear this today, I hope you can take some time to reflect back on your accomplishments, and acknowledge them at face value. You don’t have to remember the struggle, just acknowledge that it happened by hard work, not by luck, and that you deserve every bit of the outcome and recognition you’ve gained in doing so.



1 Comment

  1. Molly McNally
    August 26, 2019 / 4:11 pm

    Oh Sara, this post brought me to tears! I am starting Optometry school on Thursday and have been overwhelmed by nerves and doubt. I was so lucky to get to know you in undergrad and to have you as a friend! Keep on being amazing!! 💗

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