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
“I didn’t feel like I fitted in because a lot of the events in the first few weeks of Freshers’ Weeks were very drink heavy or going out. I just think it’s not where I found myself. Later on, when I began to meet other people who had similar interests to me in the way that they have fun. I think that’s when I started feeling a bit more like I fit in or belonged.”
“I struggled in my A-Levels, but when I got there, it seemed like everyone else had flown through them, so I was a bit worried then. After a couple weeks though, I was on the same level as them, so I was okay.”
“In the beginning, it was more the fact that my educational background was different from everyone else. I think that was the main thing that made me feel a bit out of place, but because all the events organised that I went to, they were mainly hosted by my hall of residency. Then it didn’t feel like there were more guys than girls around. I didn’t feel like I was out of place being female.”