Beware the imposter syndrome!

The imposter syndrome monster is an old, grimy beast sitting frightfully atop Carnegie Mellon’s picturesque campus. He creepily laughs as he mocks the students from above, traveling from dorm to dorm until his fury has been unleashed onto the unsuspecting masses. He sends chills down the spines of upperclassmen; even before he visits them, they are anxiously awaiting his return. However, the monster’s favorite meal — the fresh meat of first-year students — is arriving soon.

He licks his cold-blooded lips and garners up his appetite, gazing from the shadows as innocent freshmen attend their first classes, begin studying for exams, and turn in summer assignments. The ruthless monster makes the students doubt their accomplishments and question their ability to succeed. Once the monster has bitten the students, they begin to contract imposter syndrome. Some first-years have met the monster before, but others have not. Knowing they are not immune to the monster’s presence, the students are determined to find a way to defeat him.

On a cold and mysterious night, the monster creeps up on Mudge, an old mansion at the intersection of Fifth and Morewood Avenue. The outdoor sign reads “abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Intrigued and feeling rebellious, he steps inside and begins looking for students to scare. Instead, the monster finds a ghost town. The hallways are all empty, the rooms are filled to the brim with cockroaches, and the eerie noises coming from upstairs are enough to make the monster recede back to his hiding place… for now.

The next night he travels to Stever. The monster is relieved when he notices the lights on in many of the rooms, and students have gathered with masks downstairs. Instead of attacking at first sight, he feasts his eyes on the cacti during Orientation Week. He takes notes on the students’ weaknesses as they each introduce themselves, their majors, and their goals for the upcoming year. After interviewing Stever resident and economics major Chris Angelov about his interaction with the monster, he has come to describe the beast as “stressful and pressuring.” An anonymous computer science student explains that the monster visited her as soon as she got accepted to Carnegie Mellon, explaining “[she] legitimately thought that someone had made a mistake, that [she] couldn’t possibly have gotten in.”

Feeling successful with last night’s adventure, the imposter syndrome monster moves on to E-Tower, Donner, Resnik, and Hamerschlag, slowly exerting his dominance as he progresses. He thrives off human fear, so he makes sure to avoid the dorms where he can not see people from above. He usually attacks students in the classroom, but this year, the monster has gained the unique ability to scare his students from their own webcams. Business administration first-year student Erika Heffernen explains that the monster first visited her “sitting in [her] classes and listening to people talk.”

By the end of the first week of classes, everyone knew who the imposter syndrome monster was. They feared him and began to take precautions to prevent the monster’s inevitable wrath. When asked how he defeated the imposter syndrome monster, business and human-computer interaction major Yann Thomas, a junior, answered, “the key was finding pride in [his] own intelligence.”

The imposter syndrome monster slowly weakens as the students learn how to survive despite the monster’s overwhelming presence. He slowly loses power as the freshman join study groups and support services. He begins to crumble as he watches students learn to succeed. The monster will never fully disappear, but he has become beatable. Saddened and defeated, the imposter syndrome monster returns to the shadows of darkness and recharges, thrilled to meet next year’s group of incoming freshmen and potential victims.

And so, the cycle inevitably and perpetually continues.