My imposter syndrome is focused around the academic job market (which is different than other posted questions), and it comes in two parts:
(1) My feelings of being an imposter have been exacerbated by poor treatment and abuse from my PhD advisor over the years who has, in moments in frustration, remarked derisively that I have the worst technical ability of any student in the lab, do not fit in, and would have better off with an advisor working in more applied topics. The only reason why he kept me employed as his student was because I worked hard, said 'yes' to every thing he asked me to do and basically failed to set any personal boundaries, allowing him to step all over me. These repeated remarks have been extremely cruel and I have thought about quitting and even ending my life several times. That being said, I know deep down that there is some truth to his comments.
Fast forward several years, and I am privileged enough to be interviewing at some very prestigious universities for academic positions (top 5 places). But I am fully aware that this is largely due to my brilliant and extremely controlling advisor who has been the driving force behind the success of a lot of my work.
While my other prestigious letter writers have raved about me and written exceptionally strong letters, I can't help but feel that they do not know the truth: which is that the image that they see of me is one that is carefully crafted by my advisor. But once I graduate and leave the influence of my advisor I will stumble and not meet their expectations.
(2) I am exceedingly anxious about interviewing at these top 5 institutions due to a fear of being looked down upon by faculty who are clearly, and quantitatively more intelligent and brilliant than me. I have heard of stories where faculty will just ignore you at dinner if they've figured out you're not at their level of intellect.
At most places however, even at slightly less prestigious institutions (top 5-15 places) I do not get this anxiety. The faculty are more down to earth and I can typically find faculty who are on a similar 'competency plane' as me, who I can relate to. But that is not the case at the most top institutions.
I am also quite introverted. I am never the center of attention (in fact I hate it), and I do not naturally fit the mold of the social and intellectual butterfly that can wow people at dinners.
Even if I get an offer from these prestigious institutions, I am hesitant about taking the offer given that I may always be a "small fish" in a big pond for the rest of my career. And I believe I would be happier at a slightly less prestigious institution.
Logically speaking, I wonder if it even makes any sense to interview at these prestigious institutions aside from social obligation to my letter writers + nobody in their right mind would actually cancel interviews at these places.
It is a popular trend to suggest that everyone has imposter syndrome and everyone belongs. But the cold harsh truth is that people do get found out as imposters and those people don't get tenure!
I understand how this might seem like a vent from a privileged person, but I would love to hear other people's thoughts about this general topic of dealing with imposter syndrome as I think it can apply to a lot of people.