Exploring Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is defined as, “The pervasive feeling of self-doubt, insecurity, or fraudulence despite often overwhelming evidence to the contrary,” according to Scientific American. While attaching “syndrome” to it ultimately makes it all seem more elusive than it really is, these are feelings many students tend to experience once in university.

Your last year of high school was probably incredibly stressful, with back-to-back deadlines and minimum averages you had to meet in order to even be considered for certain programs. Months and months of cramming, all-nighters and begging your teachers to boost your mark that extra two percent, all amounting to an acceptance letter determining your next four years. Now that you’re in, and all of that worry and stress is behind you, you find yourself still at a place of unease.

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This is simply because your old problems have been replaced with a new one: the overall feeling that you aren’t good enough to have made it to where you are. Your accomplishments sit in the background while you compare yourself to peers who you think are more qualified than you, and you mull over the idea of possibly being a fraud. 

Photo by Erika Wittlieb

The second-guessing seems constant, and it only grows as long as we feel alone in our worries and uncertainty.  Merely talking about how you’re feeling can help to quiet the voice of your inner critic. You’ll begin to talk through the inner workings of your thoughts with people who will hopefully remind you of the accomplishments you may have just brushed off.

It’s no surprise that we tend to focus on the negatives, even when seemingly overwhelmed by all the positives, so having a little reminder from friends or family can help to boost you during periods of self-doubt. The point is to hear it aloud from somebody else (that you are capable, competent, etc.), as that might help you to actually internalize that truth. Through starting a conversation, one of the many things you’ll realize is that you aren’t alone. Plenty of other people feel similarly to you, but that’s something you’d never know unless you start talking about it.

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Lastly, an important thing to note is that imposter syndrome may never entirely fade, so by creating  dialogue, it can help you to build your confidence over time, as well as allow you to discover tools that try to curb any doubts or worry. You may continue to find yourself momentarily wrapped up in these fears, and that is completely normal. The goal should never be perfection, but to get to a point where you can effectively reason your way out of those feelings, and not let them control your every action.