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Mental Health

Understanding Imposter Syndrome And How to Combat It

Have you ever done well on an exam and thought to yourself, well that must’ve just been an easy exam, or I just got lucky this time? The truth is, lots of people have thoughts like this throughout their lives. Even the most successful people can sometimes feel undeserving of their accomplishments. The name for consistently having these types of thoughts is imposter syndrome.

What is imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that causes people to feel like a fraud, even when it is untrue. It can make you feel like everyone belongs, except for you. It can also cause you to be fearful that if you mess up, everyone will realize you don’t belong and have been an imposter all along. 

If you’ve ever felt this way, it’s important to understand the different aspects of imposter syndrome and how it affects people. One way imposter syndrome manifests is through anxiety. Feeling like we don’t belong in our position can lead to lots of stress and anxiety and cause us to worry constantly about how others view us. We may even feel like we aren’t good enough.

Imposter syndrome is also closely linked to perfectionism. Many of us who experience this phenomenon feel the need to make everything absolutely perfect. We feel like we need to overcompensate for our lack of skill and knowledge by perfecting every little detail of what we’re working on.

Another significant aspect of imposter syndrome is self-doubt. When we doubt our abilities, we can convince ourselves we aren’t deserving of our accomplishments, and we sometimes create excuses for our successes. We believe there’s no way we could have done well on that exam or got accepted to that school or internship based on our own abilities, so it must have been some fluke or mistake. 

Fear of failure is also a major aspect of imposter syndrome too. Because we feel like we are the only ones who don’t know what’s going on, we can become terrified of others realizing that we feel lost. This fear can either lead to perfectionism, as mentioned before, or cause us not to try and stay hidden amongst a crowd.

How can we stop thoughts caused by imposter syndrome?

Now that we’ve discussed some of the different aspects of imposter syndrome, it’s important to understand how to combat these thoughts and feel confident and secure in our accomplishments. One way to do this is to realize that you’re not alone in feeling this way. Talking to other people about your feelings of self-doubt and anxiety can be extremely helpful because chances are, they have felt this same way too.

One of the biggest misunderstandings we have when experiencing imposter syndrome is that everyone knows what they’re doing when we actually don’t. We fail to understand that every person is flawed and unsure, just like we can sometimes be. We think this because we are only aware of our internal fears, insecurities, and mistakes. As far as everyone else, we only know what they show outwardly on the surface, so we can’t possibly be aware of what other people are thinking all the time. This causes us to assume that everyone else understands things more than us because people aren’t typically vocal about feeling lost in what’s going on.

By opening up to others about these feelings of imposter syndrome, we can create a more open dialogue about feelings of self-doubt and understand that we are all in the same boat when it comes to these things.

Another way to combat imposter syndrome is by validating others for their successes and accomplishments. This can help those around you who might be struggling with this phenomenon. Even simple compliments can help others to feel more secure and worthy of their accomplishments.

Similarly, when others compliment you, don’t brush the compliment off. Let yourself accept and understand that you are the reason you succeed. By creating environments where we validate one another, we can help to overcome imposter syndrome. 


When we start to have thoughts of doubt in ourselves and our accomplishments, it’s important to recognize that these doubts could be a result of imposter syndrome. When you start to think about all the reasons you don’t deserve to be where you are, take a moment to think about all the hard work, time, and effort you put into getting where you are. By understanding and overcoming our thoughts of unworthiness, we can achieve peace within ourselves and stop feeling like imposters in our own lives.

Grace Martorano is a junior at Penn State studying Astronomy/Astrophysics. Outside of writing, Grace enjoys singing, loves the beach, and is a tour guide at PSU. You can find her on Instagram @grace.martorano
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