It's a stressful experience because you often sit in paralyzing fear in most of your classes. You fear tat it's only a matter of time before someone figures you out. This fear can manifest itself in many ways including hesitation to complete and turn in assignments, a lack of classroom participation, fear of professors and their feedback, insomnia, and isolation. The overarching fear is that at any moment, with any assignment you turn in, the professor will pull you aside and explain to you that perhaps you should reconsider seminary (or your field).
So why am I bringing up this terrifying experience? Because if it has a name, other people must feel it too and I don't want you to think you're alone when you're experiencing it. By definition, those who suffer from imposter syndrome do so in silence. Since a major part of the syndrome is the fear of being discovered, it isn't talked about. And that is the true problem.
And this true problem exists especially in graduate programs where the student is also gaining experience in their context: think seminarians, medical students, counseling students, etc. We're thrown into the deep end of the water, where the question isn't necessarily, "Can I survive?" but instead, "Am I even a swimmer?"
In this article, using this platform, I'm setting aside my fear, and disclosing that I have dealt with imposter syndrome since the day I turned in my application to Luther Seminary. I doubted myself on every single paper, which resulted in me writing them in panic just hours before they were due. I called it procrastination. But no, it was fear. Stomach-churning fear. Nearly two years into my studies at Luther, I was finally handed the language to be able to talk about the way I was suffering. If any of this sounds familiar to you, if any of my experience sounds like your experience, I urge you to talk to someone about it. Bring it up with your faculty advisor. You won't be the first person. If you have a problem with internalizing your success, hang those high scoring tests and papers up on the fridge. Display your achievements, not so other people will be impressed, rather so you will be reminded that you have the capacity to be successful.
Why reach out? Reach out so you don't have to suffer in silence. Reach out because, as a mentor of mine has said, "Imposter syndrome doesn't just go away after ordination." When it comes to things like imposter syndrome, we have to develop ways to overcome the experience, because if we don't care for ourselves, how can we care for others?
Imposter syndrome is not something to feel ashamed about. It's not a flaw, it's an understandable fear. It's also a fear you don't have to deal with on your own.