Tackling Impostor Syndrome at University
A student from the University of Birmingham shares her tips on how to prevent impostor syndrome.
This article was written by Emma, a Chemical Engineering student at the University of Birmingham.
Impostor syndrome — the feeling that you are not as able or qualified as others perceive you to be — is something that impacted me particularly during the pandemic. The lack of in-person exams made me feel like I was going to be ‘caught out’, and when I spoke to my friends many of them felt this way too. Studying at university is mostly independent, and being responsible for your own schedule and success can sometimes make us feel as if we are not putting enough effort in. Luckily, this year I have managed to overcome a lot of the impostor syndrome that I felt in my second year of university, and I have developed some tactics to prevent the feeling returning.
How to prevent impostor syndrome
Check out these tips on how you can prevent impostor syndrome while at university:
Take credit for your achievements
Firstly, it is important to stop attributing any of your successes to luck or chance. I had, and sometimes still do have, a bad habit of crediting luck for achieving my goals or targets, as I always felt that I didn’t work hard enough to deserve what I had achieved. We must credit our achievements (big or small) to ourselves.
Don’t compare yourself with others
It is also important to not compare yourself to others. Other people’s successes are not your failures, and it is easy to forget that there is a much higher visibility for other people’s successes due to ‘survivorship bias’. We notice our own failures and disappointments, but other people are not likely to tell you about theirs.
Create a schedule for your schoolwork
Setting a schedule for the times of day which you will be completing university work can also reduce the feeling of not working hard enough. I often felt that I didn’t deserve what I had achieved just because I could have put more time towards it, but this is not true, and setting a schedule allows you to prove this to yourself when you are having doubts in your abilities.
Say yes to opportunities
Another active way of overcoming impostor syndrome is saying yes to opportunities. Often it can be difficult to do so when you lack the confidence in your abilities but testing myself within these opportunities has allowed me to prove that I can put into practice what I have been learning within my degree. My placement this summer has allowed me to see the responsibilities that people are willing to trust me with, and if others have such trust in you, you should trust yourself too. It may be nerve-wracking to start a new opportunity during periods of self-doubt, but it can be greatly beneficial in the long run.
Ultimately, impostor syndrome stems from self-doubt and many of us experience it within our lifetime. It is important to be kind to yourself and remember that nobody is 100% confident in themselves all the time. It is the ability to criticize ourselves that helps us to improve, but it is also valuable to acknowledge when we have got things right.
Find your confidence at the University of Birmingham