Have you ever been in disbelief that you’re not worthy of the opportunity that’s in front of you?
It’s quite a lonely feeling – thank goodness the theme of Mental Health Awareness Week this year is loneliness. Read on to explore imposter syndrome further, and understand why you’re neither alone, nor an imposter.
What is imposter syndrome?
It’s the worst. That’s what it is.
Despite there being evidence to back up how much you deserve an opportunity, imposter syndrome is an internalised fear related to low self-esteem, caused by a lack of confidence, making you feel like a fraud – even if your achievements and accolades say otherwise.
Imposter syndrome can make you feel as though you don’t deserve your spot at university, or that you were hired for a job by mistake. It makes you feel like all your successes aren’t actually hard-earned but rather a complete fluke, which in turn can make you feel pretty bad.
Imposter syndrome can knock your confidence, making you feel anxious, depressed and stressed through the fear of both not being good enough, and being uncovered as a crook.
How does imposter syndrome impact students?
Unfortunately, imposter syndrome is increasingly common in university, especially as many current students were awarded their university place based on teacher-assessed A-Level grades and not exams due to the pandemic.
Furthermore, it is common in high-pressure environments, such as work and university, because there’s often criteria involved in securing and maintaining a place/role.
The impact that imposter syndrome has on students can be quite damaging to the trajectory of your education. Imposter syndrome has the potential to be a continual drain on your confidence and impact all aspects of your wellbeing, so you feel less motivated – and this can show in your academic performance.
What should you do to combat these feelings?
We said it once, and we’ll say it again. Imposter syndrome is the worst. Dr Dom, a GP and mental health expert, explains what you can do to shake the imposter syndrome blues.
More tips on shaking imposter syndrome
Be kind to yourself
You may not be feeling your best, but a lot of those good feelings need to come from within. Give yourself a big pat on the back. Uni isn’t easy, but you’re doing it!
It’s an opportunity that some people don’t get to experience – look at you go!
We’ll start: Well done!!
Ask for feedback!
With imposter syndrome on your shoulders, it’s easy to feel gaslit, so a little reassurance would do you some good. Why not ask someone you trust for some feedback?
But… I’m a fraud, I can’t make mistakes.
Wrong – you’re not a fraud, and you can make mistakes. Making mistakes is healthy, it’s human and it’s an excellent way to learn.
There’s even a teaching technique your lecturers may use called ‘productive failure’ which encourages students to fail, only to have a better learning outcome as a result!
Celebrate wins, big or small
Those with imposter syndrome tend to gloss over any victory they may have because when your confidence is low, do you really want that attention?
Probably not, but celebrating any and every win will help to give you that boost that you need.
Your win doesn’t even have to be academic – it can be as simple as getting out of bed earlier and going to the gym.
Winning is different for everyone – and this is your opportunity to decide what winning looks like for you.
Imposter syndrome doesn’t disappear overnight. It takes some working on. Now you know what it is, just own it. By acknowledging the elephant in the room, you can begin working on the steps to help you feel as worthy as you are.
You’re not an imposter, and you’re not alone in the way you’re feeling.
You will get through it.
Below are some excellent resources for you to get that all important mental health support.
- Samaritans – Their support line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 116 123. If you prefer to write down your feelings, or you’re worried about being overheard, you can send an email email@example.com.
- SHOUT – If you’d prefer to communicate with someone with text messages, you can text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258. This is a free and confidential support service that’s available 24/7.
- Nightline – Some unis have a nightline, which typically runs from around 8pm – 8am during term time. They offer a completely confidential and anonymous service, where they listen to you and offer advice but allow you to make your own decisions on any further action. Visit to the Nightline website to search the phone number for your university.
- PAPYRUS – This suicide prevention charity runs HOPELINEUK from 9am – midnight every day of the year. The helpline is for anyone under the age of 35, and you can call them on 0800 068 4141, text 07860039967 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mind – For information about the mental health support in your local area, you can call Mind’s Infoline on 0300 123 3393 from 9am – 6pm every weekday (except bank holidays).
- CALM – CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) has a specific focus on reducing suicide rates among men, but offers general mental health advice too. You can reach their helpline on 0800 58 58 58 or their webchat between 5pm – midnight every day of the year.