What is Imposter Syndrome?
Have you ever had the feeling that you are a fraud? That you are not good enough to be where you are? That you don’t deserve your successes and always feel underqualified? You may be suffering from impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome, by definition, is the inability to believe that your success is deserved or that your skills are good enough to achieve that success. To someone with impostor syndrome, success feels more like luck or coincidence. In simpler terms, having impostor syndrome is feeling like you are a phony and, once you are found out, all of your achievements are going to go away. Impostor syndrome is increasingly common in academic environments where being assessed and judged academically is a part of daily life as a student.
How does it affect post-secondary students?
It is quite common for post-secondary students to have the feeling at least once in their academic career that everyone at their school is doing better than they are. When you are attending an institution with a reputation for attracting the smartest and brightest students from all around the world, it can be hard to feel like you belong. Everyone at one stage or another is bound to feel moments of inadequacy and believe that they don’t deserve to be where they are. It is important to remember that if you are attending university, you were accepted for a reason. It was no fluke acceptance, and you are no impostor.
What are some ways to treat/prevent it?
1. Avoid comparing yourself to others
It’s easy to compare yourself to others when you are constantly around people who are accomplished. In school, it is very easy to get into a cycle of comparing yourself to others, whether you are comparing jobs, grades, scholarships, etc. One way to stop impostor syndrome is to avoid doing this. Stop comparing yourself to others and start comparing yourself to yourself. Look at where you were 1 year ago, 2 years ago, 3 years ago. Are you doing better than you were last year? Could you do better in the future? Be in competition with none other than your past self.
2. Remember that you are not alone
It’s common to feel like you are the only one experiencing this feeling. Remember: that is not true. Everyone, at some point in their lives, student or not, has felt moments of inadequacy. Talk to your parents, peers, and mentors to see if they have experienced this feeling to help you feel less alone. You can also take comfort from research: statistics show that more than 50% of students have experienced impostor syndrome at least once in their academic or professional careers.
3. Get a mentor and talk through your experiences together
Get a mentor! They can tell you all about their personal experience and give you some tips on how they have treated their impostor syndrome in the past. It may help you to know how to deal with your difficulties in the future!
4. Recognize it for what it is
It’s important for you to recognize impostor syndrome for what it is: your brain telling you false information about your capabilities and the right to deserve all that you have achieved. The feeling of not being good enough is just that: a feeling. It is not a fact. Once you have recognized it for what it is, it might be easier to start coping.
If you feel like an impostor because you have made a mistake, it’s important to accept that you are not perfect, nor is anyone else. Even if someone is an expert on something, they still make mistakes and it is impossible for someone to know everything. So don’t expect yourself to. Accept that you are human and that we all make mistakes, and it will help you feel like less of an impostor. Remember, there are lots of people out there feeling the same way you do, and perfection does not exist, so why are you aiming for it?
Imposter syndrome affects students as well as professionals. It is important to find ways to fight impostor syndrome so that one may work to their best abilities and give themselves credit to their successes.