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College culture is often filled with pushing yourself to obtain the best grades, an internship, or even a well paying job. This coupled with the balancing of social life, clubs and organizations, and just the ups and downs of student life. It can lead to a lot of nervousness and anxiety surrounding work. Being successful in college is normalized as doing well academically and getting better internship opportunities than your classmates. While I believe that success in college can be measured differently, social life, relationships, and personal growth. It's hard not to focus on those things and overthink them. While you may be a good student, thoughts may fill your head about whether you deserve to be in those higher level classes or if you deserve that internship even enough to apply for it. Thoughts like these can be a mental blockade that puts you in a funk or even prevents you from achieving your fullest potential. 


Imposter syndrome, sometimes referred to as imposter phenomenon is characterized by doubting your successes and intellectual self-doubt. Impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression. Instead of accepting accomplishments or embracing them people often will attribute them to other things such as luck rather than their own hard work. It can be a difficult mental battle that is hard for people to talk about.


Psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s first developed the concept of imposter syndrome. They defined it as “despite outstanding academic and professional accomplishments, women who experience the imposter phenomenon persist in believing that they are really not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise.” Since then more research has been done into this theory. While it is not an official diagnosis in the DSM psychologists still acknowledge it to be an issue. 


Since Imes and Clance originally wrote their definition scientists have discovered that it often affects minority groups. According to studies done on imposter syndrome in minority groups of college students, they often feel imposter syndrome more frequently stigmas and environmental pressures.


Imposter syndrome is often a self battle of fighting thoughts that you are not worthy of your accomplishments and accepting them as your own. It can start affecting your academic performance and social life if thoughts of not succeeding become overpowering. It can also result in burnout as not feeling worthy enough to be where you are now may cause an overload of work. 


Even though Imposter Syndrome is not recognized as a psychiatric disorder, there are still professionals willing to help on this topic. Along with that, there are some steps you can take to be proactive with this on your own:

  1. Acknowledging and recognizing those thoughts are the first step. By doing this you will be able to recognize where the root of your thoughts come from. 

  2. Try to change those negative thoughts into more positive ones. 

  3. Celebrate your accomplishments even when you feel like you're not worthy of them. 

  4. Share your feelings with others


Many people experience imposter syndrome, being in college it is easy to become susceptible to thoughts. While there are many ways to combat it yourself asking for help is always important.


Hi! I'm Sarah Daly, I am a Strategic Communications + Policy Studies major at Elon University. I am passionate about mental health, writing, and creativity.
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