The struggles of Imposter Syndrome.
Roughly 10% of people in the world go on to pursue a graduate-level degree. Out of all of the people in the world, you are one of 10% of people to commit to continuing your education. This alone is something to celebrate, a reason to be proud of yourself. So why is it that we discredit ourselves for these achievements by questioning our right to be in these spaces? Imposter syndrome can be defined as “persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). This response is far too common among graduate and professional students. Maybe your path has shifted, and you’re continuing your education with a different focus and concentration than you had as an undergraduate student. Or perhaps you feel a disconnect tuning into Zoom calls during a pandemic, creating more space between you and your program. Or maybe you simply struggle with elements of self-doubt in a variety of situations, and graduate and professional studies are no different. Whatever the reason, your struggle with imposter syndrome is valid and reasonable, and you are certainly not alone.
Regarding this past year, in particular, the standard run-ins with imposter syndrome may have been heightened. Because of increased isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to establish community and relationships with peers, educators, and various faculty members has been all the more difficult. This lack of community enables and creates a greater space for you to lose yourself in intrusive thoughts and harmful narratives around self-doubt. In reality, many graduate and professional students feel the same. Without the foundation to connect with others to express similar worries and concerns, imposter syndrome can be elevated and even more isolating.
So how do you combat this? It may be more complex than ridding yourself of intrusive, imposter syndrome thoughts completely, but here are a few ways you can challenge these narratives:
- Remember to separate facts from feelings. The truth is, you were admitted to your program because the university sees great potential in you and your work, specifically in your field of choice. Although you may feel as though you don’t belong, the truth is, you are right where you should be.
- Acknowledge the moments you feel you don’t belong. What is triggering this response? Why are you feeling this way? What are some concrete examples of why this isn’t true?
- Reach out to fellow students. Your peers are experiencing similar things. Even if you know just one person in your program or another, talking through these feelings can help and often show that you are not alone in your worries.
- Tell yourself it is okay to make mistakes. Mistakes and failures do not prove that inner voice saying you don’t belong, right. Mistakes are part of the journey, they are inevitable, and they are important milestones of growth. Do not let these moments discredit you, instead let them push you further.
- Always give yourself grace. If a friend came to you with anxieties around the program they started, expressing that they are not good enough, don’t deserve to be in the program, or don’t belong, what would you say to them? Treat yourself how you would treat this friend. You know their strengths, their abilities, their determination. Often, it is so easy to see this in others, but not ourselves. Be kind to yourself. Understanding, compassion, and support for yourself will go a much longer way than you may think.
If you feel you need extra support, there are always resources available. Sometimes talking these worries out with a licensed professional through Counseling and Consultation Services is the best approach. Even a conversation with a Wellness Coach through the Student Wellness Center can be helpful. Most importantly, know that you are not alone in this struggle, and above all, you deserve to be here, and we’re so happy you are.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Impostor syndrome. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved March 25, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impostor%20syndrome
-Graduate and Professional Student, Wellness Coaching