Imposter syndrome, the overbearing voice of self-doubt that acts as a constant nuisance in the back of one’s head, is not uncommon. Actually, it is especially prevalent among college students. In fact, a 2019 study done by Brigham Young University found that roughly 20% of college students experience this phenomenon (Carlton, 2021). The competitive atmosphere of school raises levels of stress and pressure for all students, and can lead to major detriments to one’s self confidence and ability to academically perform.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is defined by Oxford Lexico Dictionary as, “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills” (Lexico Dictionaries). It involves a blurred or false self-perception that conflicts with how a person is perceived by others in reality (Raypole, 2021). People who suffer from this often feel their good grades or successes are a mistake or a coincidence, and perceive external validation as pity or sympathy. This usually manifests in feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, depression, guilt, and various insecurities.
Also known as perceived fraudulence, this phenomenon can affect people from all walks of life, ranging from people like top executives at firms, to college students with limited professional experience. The problem is so vast in fact, that a 2019 review of 62 studies on the topic found that anywhere from 9 to 82 percent of people experience these feelings or have related thoughts at some point in their life (Raypole, 2021).
As for college students, everybody handles imposter syndrome differently. Many students often create a high-pressure environment, where they work harder to keep others from noticing their “failures”, or to ease their feelings of guilt for “tricking people” (Carlton, 2021). They may over prepare and push themselves to exhaustion and/or burnout. Other students who experience these feelings can react by avoiding “risks” like participating in class or taking on a project because they immediately expect failure from themselves. These students tend to procrastinate and leave their work to the last minute due to their anxiety. The looming feeling of “not belonging” also often leads to students withdrawing from social interactions, affecting both students’ academic performance and mental health (Raypole, 2021).
While this cycle of anxiety and work can feel overbearing and never ending to most, professors and researchers have come up with different strategies on how college students specifically should deal with it. It takes a complete change in mindset and perspective, however. Instead of students hiding feelings of insecurity, professors recommend confronting those feelings in order to do their best. For example, one could ask how they could improve or they could consider what is specifically challenging them before feeling embarrassed about what can be seen as a shortcoming. Furthermore, the realization that nobody is perfect and that everybody is simply “figuring it out” can work wonders for one’s self-confidence, and make it much easier for a person to grow, whether it be academically, socially, or mentally. This is when researchers recommend adopting the mantra “fake it till you make it”, because that is simply what everyone else is doing. Confiding in others, like classmates, can also help, as they will often share the same feelings and talking about it can also help relieve stress (Carlton, 2021).
Carlton, G. (2021, July 27). How to overcome impostor syndrome in college. BestColleges.com. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.bestcolleges.com/blog/overcome-impostor-syndrome-college/.
Lexico Dictionaries. (n.d.). Impostor syndrome English definition and meaning. Lexico Dictionaries | English. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/impostor_syndrome.
Raypole, C. (2021, April 16). Imposter Syndrome: What it is & how to overcome it. Healthline. Retrieved September 30, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/imposter-syndrome#:~:text=Imposter%20syndrome%2C%20also%20called%20perceived,yourself%20to%20ever%20higher%20standards.