Imposter Syndrome: Am I a Fraud?

As a college student at a prestigious university, it is common for people to automatically think of you as a naturally smart, brilliant student. You hear things like, “Well you got into The Ohio State University, so you must be smart!” These phrases are especially common among students in majors that are infamously difficult, like engineering, any type of science, and so many more. When I tell people that I’m a math major, they often respond with, “Wow, you must be so smart!” or “I could never do that!” People assume that I am some sort of genius. What they don’t know is that I don’t feel like a genius at all. Hell, I don’t even feel smart. And neither do a lot of the people who receive these types of comments. People assume that if you are in hard major, it’s easy for you and you get As in all of your classes and don’t struggle at all. Truth is, I got a C- in my first math course that I took at OSU. Often times, this leaves me feeling like a fraud. Everyone thinks that I’m so smart, but I don’t feel smart. Am I lying to them? Letting them believe something that isn’t true? Do I even deserve to be here? If you relate to any of these feelings of inadequacy, you may be experiencing something called Imposter Syndrome.

What is imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome is characterized by an inability to internalize accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” It is extremely common among college students, and is often not talked about. But constantly second guessing all of your accomplishments and questioning your worthiness can have a severe impact on your mental health, and can lead to anxiety and/or depression. This is why imposter syndrome is important to be addressed, and it is important to realize that you are most definitely not the only one feeling this way. Imposter syndrome is something that can be overcome, and below I will list some tips and techniques I found from an article (https://startupbros.com/21-ways-overcome-impostor-syndrome/) to overcome imposter syndrome and embrace everything that you deserve.

  1. Accept that you’ve had some role in your successes. You feel like a fraud because you believe that everything you did to get you where you are today was just pure luck, or chance. But it’s important to realize that you did do something to get you where you are. You wrote all the application essays, you passed all the necessary classes (even if barely), and you said yes to things when you could have said no. You got to where you are today based on your own decisions, not just chance. And that’s pretty freakin awesome.
  2. Remember: being wrong doesn’t make you a fake. The best basketball players miss most of the shots they take. Making mistakes and messing up sometimes doesn’t mean that all of your achievements have been fraudulent, or that you don’t deserve to be where you are. It just means that you’re human. Nobody is perfect, and it’s important that you don’t expect yourself to be either.
  3. Take action. Being actively aware of the negative thoughts that you are having and the impact that they are having on you can go a long way in not letting them have such a strong impact. Facing those thoughts and saying, “you know what, screw you, I’ve worked damn hard to get where I am today,” can be a powerful tool in overcoming imposter syndrome. Recognizing those self-doubting thoughts and stopping them in their tracks is a great way to take your confidence back.
  4. Find one person you can say, “I feel like a fraud” to. This can actually be really helpful, especially when the thoughts that are leading you to believe you are a fraud tend to be a bit irrational. Expressing this thought to another person and receiving their input, probably on how you are absolutely not a fraud, can be a huge help.
  5. Sometimes faking things actually does work. Ever heard of the phrase “fake it till you make it”? Everyone does it! No one knows everything about everything, so sometimes you just gotta fake it till you know enough. This does not at all make you a fraud. It makes you normal. It makes you eager to learn more and gives you a place to sit while you get there.

These tips may not be a cure-all for imposter syndrome, but I think they can be useful in leading to healthier thinking. Nobody knows what they are doing, and everyone doubts themselves sometimes. But it’s important to take credit for the accomplishments that you do make, and to learn to believe in yourself through times of strife. You will be ok. You are not a fraud, and you deserve to be here.

 

Counseling and Consultation Services: https://ccs.osu.edu/
Dennis Learning Center: http://dennislearningcenter.osu.edu/
Career Counseling and Support Services: http://ccss.osu.edu/

 

 

When Stress is Too Much

School is stressful. And having a little bit of stress in your life is good—it keeps you motivated and makes life interesting. But too much stress can be unhealthy. And other times, stress is a symptom, not the problem. So, when is stress too much to handle and when is it time to figure things out? Well, let’s take a look at a couple indicators of when you might need to take your stress to a doctor.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and what I say should not be used as a reason to NOT go to a doctor. If you have any question about it at all, it is better to get it sorted out as soon as possible!

Symptoms

Here’s the real deal: typical stress has a lot of the same symptoms as many other underlying causes. Take clinical depression, for example (I am EXTREMELY passionate about depression). Both stress and depression share the symptoms of feeling bad about yourself, avoiding others, feeling overwhelmed and a lack of control, and becoming easily agitated or moody. A lot of other physical health issues have similar symptoms, as well. So, how do you know whether stress is the problem or if stress is just a symptom? My general rule of thumb for this is if you experience five differences between your normal self and your “stressed out” self, you should see a doctor. For me, if I am experiencing a difficult time sleeping, a lack of motivation, an agitated mood, and two other symptoms, I know that I need to go to my doctor! Once again, this is not all-encompassing. Even if you have just one symptom, you still have reason to go see a doctor. Always check with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Time period

Stress is usually dependent on the stressors of your life. These stressors may include family or social pressures, upcoming midterms or assignments, a lack of sleep, etc. But when the stress lasts even after the stressor is gone, you might want to take a closer look at it. My general rule of thumb is two weeks, but this is just a recommendation. If you notice any of the symptoms talked about previously that last more than two weeks, check with your doctor!

How it affects your daily life

Especially regarding mental health, a big factor in treatment is how your life is affected by the illness. But for anything in life–if you notice a decline in your grades, a decline in enjoyment in fun activities, or a decline in your social life–it may be a reason to check with your doctor. Stress should only impact your life in minor ways. In my experience, the agitated mood I used to get would negatively impact my relationships with everyone I interacted with on a daily basis. And when I realized that I was losing my friends because of my mood, I realized I needed to make a change!

And finally…

Whether the issue is stress or something more, there is help available! Check out the many resources the Counseling and Consultation Services has to offer by going to their website or by going to Let’s Talk, which offers free and confidential drop-in consultations in the Lower Level Meeting Room at the Union on Thursdays from 2:30-4:30. Or go to the Wilce Student Health Center for a check-up and overall health care. You can make an appointment online, by phone, or in person. Maybe you just need some time to relax and destress or learn about stress and time management. If this is the case, you can check out the First Year Success Series to register for a session, and get credit for your survey class!

Being stressed out in college is normal–but not a reason to deny yourself help if you become over-stressed or if you need some time to de-stress. Being proactive and listening to your body will benefit you in the long run, especially if something else is contributing to your feelings of stress. Put your wellness in a professionals hands. Your future self will thank your present self.