Imposter syndrome as put by the Harvard Business Review is ‘a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success.’ As we approach the new academic year and many of us start new universities and colleges, feelings of imposter syndrome may arise. Recent data from 62 studies showed that up to 82% of people experience feelings of self-doubt in academia. This includes people right at the start of their academic journey, all the way through to those who are as experienced as PhD students.
Imposter syndrome can develop due to a number of factors. This includes new opportunities, family upbringing, social anxiety, and personality characteristics such as perfectionism and low self-efficacy. Studies show that 1 in 7 adults experience imposter syndrome in their lifetime. It is commonly experienced by high achievers and successful individuals. This includes doctors, lawyers, actors and much more. Award-winning actor Tom Hanks mentions, that he too has feelings of self-doubt. He says “No matter what we've done, there comes a point where you think, 'How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?" Once you have reached a position you once worked so hard for, it is easy to feel like you do not belong. Understand that it takes time to adjust to new environments and honour all the hard work you have put in to get there.
How Do I Overcome Imposter Syndrome?
Stop comparing yourself - I know we've all heard the saying that ‘comparison is the theft of joy' and it couldn’t be more true. Don’t let comparison ruin a good moment.
Question your thoughts - Imposter syndrome is made up of false thoughts you feed yourself. So the next time you feel yourself falling into this, ask yourself, why? Why don’t you deserve this? Literally, try and write out a list of reasons and you'll find that actually, there are none. There is no reason! No one is coming to tell you that the offer was given to you by mistake. No one is thinking ‘what are they doing here?’ It's all just in your head!
Shift your mindset - Your mind is your most powerful resource. Feeding it negative thoughts will only hold you back. Let's use University as an example. As a working-class individual, you may feel like you are not as smart or deserving as your middle-class counterparts. When thoughts like this cross your mind you need to change your perspective. You have tackled a number of issues throughout the education system whether that be material deprivation or discrimination and the effects of stereotypes. Despite all of this you are still here! You managed to overcome all these barriers and have worked twice as hard. Don’t undermine all that you have accomplished!
Talk to someone - sometimes talking to others and gaining an outside perspective can help you see how normal yet irrational these feelings are. Fall back on those around you and let them remind you of all the reasons you deserve this.
All this being said, imposter syndrome is extremely common so don't feel bad for feeling this way. Take time to look after yourselves and reflect on all your achievements. Don't let the fear of not belonging hold you back!