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"Impostor Syndrome" and how to Deal With It as a New Student

The summer is here. Students have now broken up for the academic year. That means, as a new student, it won’t be long before Fresher’s Week is here. You’re probably nervous and excited at the same time. University is a big step in so many ways – moving out, living as an adult, being responsible for your own bills and self-discipline for academic study. Every year, many people just like you go through something called “Impostor Syndrome”. It’s not unique to being a student, but now is likely the first time you will ever experience it.


What is Impostor Syndrome?

It goes by many names but always means the same thing. Imposter Syndrome is defined as a belief that we’re not worthy of our accomplishments. We perceive ourselves as overachievers or frauds and others will soon find that out. It’s understandable why you might start to feel “Impostor Syndrome” for the first time and it’s quite common.

High-achieving people often feel they’re successful due to luck or being in the right place at the right time rather than by actual ability. It’s not considered a mental illness in the way that low self-esteem is, although they share several common traits (the feeling of not deserving something). Amusingly, people with Impostor Syndrome will deny they are experiencing it – that they genuinely are a fraud or an overachiever. Impostor Syndrome is what other people feel about themselves but they are the real article.


How Do You Cope with Impostor Syndrome?


Recognise the Feeling for what It Is

Part of the problem is failing to identify that we even have a problem. When we recognise we are experiencing Impostor Syndrome, it is the first step towards doing something about it. Every time you have a negative feeling about your ability to cope, label it and understand it.


Recognise Your Successes

The British psyche dictates that we don’t get over-confident, cocky or too self-congratulatory. Pride is a sin, even non-religious people are aware of the dangers of too high an opinion of oneself. Yet recognising your successes doesn’t mean arrogance. Working hard and being proud of it is not arrogance.


Realise that Self-Doubt is not a Bad Thing

We’re told to think positive thoughts and always look on the bright side. Impostor Syndrome is a form of paranoia. The self-punishment associated with Impostor Syndrome can be more harmful than the actual problem itself. Work with the feeling, recognise that it will keep you grounded but don’t let it rule you.


Realise that Failure *Is* an Option

In life, we’re taught that failing at something makes us a failure forever. Too many people fail to understand the idea that failing is part of a learning curve. If it doesn’t work out, try something else – there is no harm in making mistakes.