Imposter syndrome, the fear of being ‘found out’ or a belief that you don’t deserve the achievements you have accomplished, is a common feeling among students, particularly at a university as prestigious as Imperial. It can often result in anxiety and self-doubt and can lead to you downplaying your success or believing that whatever you do is never going to be good enough.
If you feel yourself experiencing these emotions, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce and control them:
Break the silence
Be open about your feelings and recognise when they emerge. It’s important to talk to those close to you about your concerns to help you get a sense of perspective. You are likely to discover that you are not alone.
Know your strengths
Document your achievements as you go along to challenge any feelings of inadequacy. Be proud of your accomplishments and learn to accept compliments from others.
Don't be afraid of failure
“Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.” (Professor David Burns, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine) Part of the learning process is not knowing where it will take you so try to reframe any defeat you may experience as a learning opportunity.
Don’t forget that you have been accepted onto a research degree at one of the top universities in the world. There may be times when working in a pressurised environment may seem overwhelming, however it’s important to remember that you are not alone and there is always support available to help you to manage these feelings. A wide range of wellbeing services are on offer at Imperial. The Student Support Zone webpages contain a full list of what's available.
Student Success Stories
There are many interpretations of what constitutes a “success” story. For many it is achieving a certain grade or landing a certain job or an internship. For others, much more “success” is overcoming a fear, overcoming a barrier, allowing oneself to feel human and seek help, and at the end of the day, despite all obstacles, making it through.
Hear what our own Imperial students have to say on this:
Student Success Stories 2
Lou, MEng Materials Engineering
“I do have to say that like whilst there was an integrated masters, I did feel a big increase in independence […] but it was kind of scary. But at the same time, I was able to set up my own schedule, which I really liked, because I could decide what I [was] going in the lab […] really define what it is I wanted to achieve for my thesis."
Neha, Life Sciences
“I always felt like I was the only person that was struggling. And in in every sense, really like both academically and just coping with the amount of stress that comes with being at Imperial. But it took me a long time to realise that everyone on the course was feeling the same way."
Josh, MRes Medical Devices and Entrepreneurship
“[Upon] joining Imperial in [my Masters], I experienced imposter syndrome: am I really good enough to be here? [...] Now, I am enjoying it […] and the biggest advice I can give is study something you actually enjoy because no one’s gonna force you to work […] and you’re not going to do that if you don’t enjoy the subject”