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Are you experiencing imposter syndrome? You did so well in high school or your undergraduate program and now feel you aren’t cut out for a higher-level program. Your mind may be flooded with what-ifs. You might be thinking, “college isn’t for me,” and worrying about doing well in the next chapter of your life. The truth is that you are not alone, and there are ways to combat these feelings and successfully continue with your degree plans.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

More than 80 percent of adults have experienced imposter syndrome at some point. When a person has imposter syndrome, they believe they are inadequate and doubt their abilities, whether in their professional, academic, or personal life.

Imposter syndrome isn’t a medical problem. Rather, it is a way of thinking that can lead to negative self-talk and missed opportunities. For example, someone could go through their degree program and feel as though they are simply pretending to be an intelligent college student, whereas everyone around them knows what they are doing. This is especially prevalent if the person is making a career change or returning to college after working for a few years. They may feel that the good grades on papers are flukes or they won’t know what to do in their career once they graduate. They may also avoid speaking up in class because they’re worried their teacher or classmates might judge them or think they
don’t know what they’re talking about.

Imposter syndrome often occurs among high achievers who believe it was luck that got them to this point in their lives rather than their skills and talents. Many people with imposter syndrome keep quiet about their feelings because they are afraid they will be “found out” and exposed as fraud.

Graduate students are particularly susceptible to feelings of imposter syndrome because of their unique position in their careers. They are at an in-between point and may feel as though they are unprepared, don’t belong, or that luck is the only reason for their success.

Imposter syndrome symptoms include:

  • Feeling unworthy
  • Believing luck was behind any success
  • Downplaying accomplishments
  • Feeling worried about being viewed as a failure
  • Holding back from goals

How to Overcome Imposter

Figuring out how to deal with imposter syndrome is vital to your well-being. If it is not dealt with, imposter syndrome can turn into a never-ending cycle with serious health consequences such as persistent stress, depression, and anxiety. To cope with imposter syndrome, you must take ownership of your achievements and recognize your potential.

Keep a record of your achievements and feedback.

If you are facing imposter syndrome, it can be hard—if not impossible—to recognize your own achievements. One way to remedy this is by keeping evidence of your wins to look back on when feeling doubtful or unworthy.

For example, when someone sends you an email, text message, or card praising you for your achievements, keep those mementos. Take a screenshot of the emails and text messages and put them in a special folder on your phone so you can reference them later. All of this evidence will help you realize that you have so much to offer and will do great things, and not just because of luck.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

People often share their achievements on social media. However, it is important to remember that this is just a small snapshot of their life. Don’t compare your life to what you see in a social media post.

Comparing yourself to others is a trap that will make you feel as though you will never add up. To avoid comparing yourself to others and feeling inferior, limit your use of social media. Setting a timer on your phone for social media apps can help you cut down on your use. Additionally, trying to portray an image of yourself on social media that isn’t accurate can worsen your feelings of imposter syndrome.

Talk with someone.

Talk with someone, whether it is a trusted friend, therapist, or mentor. A trusted friend knows you well and can help you recognize that your feelings are irrational. A therapist can help you analyze your thought process and feelings about being an imposter and adopt new behaviors to get past these feelings. Instead of getting stuck in a thought pattern that you can’t do something, a therapist can help you take action to move forward.

Support Systems at College

There are numerous support systems you can take advantage of at college, including your college advisor. They are there to guide you through your coursework and help you succeed. However, they are not just there to help you plan your classes. If you believe “college just isn’t for me,” talk to your advisor. They can help you get to the bottom of what makes you feel that way and point out your achievements.

Your professors are also a support system you can use. They want to see you succeed and can help you recognize that your work is great because of your skills, not luck. Professors at Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) are incredibly responsive over email, meaning whether you have a question about an upcoming project or feel like you’re not cut out for the program or class, they can help you work through the problem.

Seeking out additional academic assistance can improve learning and your self-confidence in school. Tutoring can help reduce feelings of imposter syndrome by facilitating learning of key subjects and ensuring the retention of material. MVNU offers tutoring services from Smarthinking, allowing students to access expert online tutoring 24/7.

If you have a learning disability and require assistance, you will have access to accessibility services at college. Accommodations aren’t a “one-size-fits-all” practice. The type of assistance available depends upon your unique needs. Some common accommodations include designated note takers, alternative testing methods, and textbooks in audio or digital formats. It is important to talk with the coordinator of accessibility services to register and receive the assistance you need.

Achieve Your Educational Goals

There are many ways to work through feelings of imposter syndrome, and it is certainly worth pursuing them. If you feel like college isn’t for you, know you are not alone. At MVNU Online, you will have a support system to help you overcome these worries so you can succeed in your education and career.

Now that you’ve identified feelings of imposter syndrome and are determined to achieve your educational and career goals, you may be wondering where to go to college. Learn more about MVNU Online and our degree programs by reading our e-book, The Best Online Degree Programs for Working Adults!

Online degree programs from Mount Vernon Nazarene University are designed with working adults in mind.

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