Have you ever woken up for school only to find a knot in the pit of your stomach? Have you avoided studying for a test or writing an essay because you worry your best won’t be good enough?
Once you identify imposter syndrome in yourself, the next challenge is to figure out how to deal with imposter syndrome in college without letting it derail your studies.
What Is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is the feeling of not being good enough. Imposter feelings often include fear of failure, anxiety, and self-doubt.
Imposter syndrome isn’t just related to school. People can feel imposter syndrome at work, in peer groups, or even at home. Consider the dedicated stay-at-home mom who wakes up thinking, “I wasn’t cut out for this job. I’m not a good enough mother. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
That’s imposter syndrome in action.
The imposter phenomenon can be a stand-alone issue or accompany other underlying mental health challenges like anxiety or depression. But regardless of how imposter syndrome develops or the setting, the fallout can be rough. Feeling like an imposter can make it hard to acknowledge your personal successes or feel confident in the work you do.
Student imposter syndrome refers to imposter syndrome in an academic setting. While there’s no cut-and-dry explanation for who has imposter syndrome, current students who are high achievers are most likely to feel the impacts of imposter syndrome in higher education.
How To Build Resilience and Combat Student Imposter Syndrome
Dealing with emotional exhaustion and burnout caused by imposter syndrome makes it much harder to advocate for yourself, receive the support you need, or accomplish your work. Learn how to develop the skills you need to combat student imposter syndrome and complete the degree you’re working toward.
Identify the Root of Your Impostor Feelings
Where does imposter syndrome come from? How does imposter syndrome develop?
Before you can begin to assess your negative feelings and get support for yourself, you need to get a handle on where your feelings are coming from first.
Students experience imposter syndrome for a variety of reasons. Researchers believe that imposter syndrome in college students is most common in high-achieving individuals and among underrepresented groups like women and people of color. It’s also common among students who took a less-than-traditional path or those in a demanding program. For example, about 87% of med students reported having a very high degree of imposter syndrome.
If these bright students fail or drop out of school, the negative experience can reinforce the idea that they’re not good enough, which can make coming back to school later in life even harder. Instead of developing their study skills, these students may struggle to pay attention to schoolwork due to high levels of anxiety. And it’s easy to see how this could lead to poor academic achievement and more feelings of inadequacy.
Talk to Supportive Mentors or Peers
Social support can be a great way to bolster your mental strength and fight student imposter syndrome. Reach out to teachers after class or mentors at your career center to gain insights into your progress and where you need to focus your energies. This clarity can give you the confidence you need to continue showing up and trying your best.
Peers can also be a great source of support. Sometimes, just hearing that you’re not the only one struggling with an assignment or dealing with anxiety can be enough to quiet the voice in your head that’s calling you a fraud.
Finally, your C2C Coach can help you navigate the challenges of college life and overcome student imposter syndrome. C2C Coaches are trained to work with adult students, offering feedback, guidance, and encouragement that non-traditional students may not receive elsewhere.
Acknowledge Your Expertise and Academic Achievements
When you have imposter syndrome, you may often compare yourself to other students negatively. For example, you might say, “That student remembers all the math they learned in high school. I’m never going to remember that information again. I’m going to fail this class.”
To avoid the comparison trap, take a moment to reframe your thoughts and acknowledge the expertise you have. If you’ve been out of school for ten years, you might notremember every ounce of high school calculus. But you do have skills that other students might not have, like critical thinking and problem-solving. Your expertise is just as relevant as theirs.
In addition to acknowledging your expertise, recognize your academic achievements as well. If you get a good grade on a paper, don’t say, “I got lucky” or “It was just an easy topic.” Acknowledging the work you put into those achievements can help you feel capable when challenges crop up in the future.
Re-Examine Your Expectations
Sometimes, imposter syndrome comes from internal pressure. Maybe you expect to achieve straight As in college, or you want to take on a full-time academic load while continuing to work your full-time job.
If your schoolwork is too difficult for you, it’s okay to acknowledge that and find a way to make school manageable. That may mean cutting down on hours at work, allowing yourself to complete your degree over a longer period of time, or accepting lower grades than you thought you wanted.
Remember that there’s a difference between doing a task perfectly and doing it well enough to achieve your goals. Sometimes good enough is good enough. You might need a mantra, such as “done is better than perfect,” to help you let go of perfectionist tendencies so you can complete assignments on time.
Create a Positive Internal Narrative
One of the best ways to combat imposter syndrome is to work on how you talk to yourself about yourself. Create a narrative of your own life that makes you feel confident about yourself and your skills. This helps you separate feelings from facts.
Instead of saying, “I was just a stay-at-home mom,” you can say, “I’ve successfully managed a household, which involved multi-tasking, emotional regulation, and research. These are skills that will help me be successful in school.”
Or, instead of saying, “I don’t deserve to come back to school. I lucked out because my supervisor paid for me to do this,” you might say, “Despite the economic challenges in Mississippi, my supervisor still believed in me and supported me enough to pay for me to go back to school. They must have confidence in me and understand the value of a degree.”
Overcome the Imposter Phenomenon as an Adult Student With C2C
Being an adult student in Mississippi can ignite feelings of being an imposter. Complete 2 Compete (C2C) can help you overcome this phenomenon. C2C is designed to help adult students going back to school receive the support they need to succeed. Check out our resources to get started with overcoming student imposter syndrome.