This happens to every student at some point.
It’s the first day of campus and you find yourself sitting in your first lecture. Everyone around you seems to be perfectly calm and prepared. You on the other hand find negative self-talk starting to creep in. You start to tell yourself, “You don’t belong here,” or “Everyone is going to see right through you,” or “Who do you think you are?” and “These other students are going to find out that I’m not good enough soon”.
This is one of the most common problems students face before starting university and it is known as the “Imposter syndrome”.
“[The] Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
It is basically feeling that you are not really a successful, competent, and smart student, that you are only imposing as such. “
- Source: Caltech
The thing about the imposter syndrome is that everyone feels it at some point – no matter how successful they are, in fact the more successful you become the more those feelings of self-doubt will come up.
“I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘Uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’” – Maya Angelou
You might think “Wow, these other students must be so smart” or “Why are they getting these concepts so quickly but it all sounds so confusing to me?”. This is perfectly normal. In fact, here’s the twist: EVERYONE IS THINKING THAT.
Yes, that’s right. Those students that look so confident and seem to be grasping the concepts so quickly are also suffering from the imposter syndrome. What you see in the surface is simply a façade of self-assurance but behind the veil is plenty of self-doubt. In fact, the students that are topping the class suffer from this the most as they believe they’re going to get “found out” at some point and they’ve just “been lucky” so far. We automatically assume that we know much less than others which is often not the case in reality.
How to beat the Imposter Syndrome
Simply remember that everyone is thinking the same thing. Everyone thinks they’re the odd one out. It’s not just you. As soon as you remember this then you will find that you won’t be affected by it much.
The bottom line is that if you can get into university or have already been accepted then you are smart enough to be sitting in that lecture room. You are good enough to achieve your dreams. Never allow the imposter syndrome to stop you from going to university or being the best you can be. In fact, very few people in the world even know about the imposter syndrome. By reading this, you have already given yourself an advantage as you will spot the imposter syndrome as soon as it creeps up on you!
Lastly, university is different than high school. While you may not have excelled in high school, it is possible to find your niche in university and to get your creative side discovered and moving. You shouldn’t ever be thinking that you’re not smart enough or not good enough, instead ask yourself: “How can I get to where I want to be?”. Develop a growth mindset! This is gone into more detail in the TED video below.