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Imposter Syndrome in Academics

I sat in a seat and couldn’t help but feel an unpleasant sense of intimidation. I’d enrolled myself into a difficult course–-one that I felt was far above my reach. It was the first class of the year, and we were already analyzing one of William Faulkner’s speeches.  While great points of analysis were being made by my peers, I remained silent. Throughout the course of the period, I was solely focused on absorbing everything said by the teacher. Maybe if I did, I’d be able to endure this class and finish off strong, right? Well, I was fully immersed in the thought of retaining what was said by the teacher that I hadn’t actually been listening. It would be like this for most of the year. It’s satirical considering I’d been doing well in the class yet it was not enough to satiate my own self-esteem. I don’t believe it had anything to do with my academic skills, rather because I embraced my insecurities, I simultaneously sabotaged my performance and learning. For the entirety of the school year, these feelings of self-doubt were endless. Only recently could I put a name to these persistent emotions of doubt-–imposter syndrome. 

According to, imposter syndrome is the internal psychological perception that one is an imposter in particular parts of their life regardless of previous achievements made in that same area. 

One who has made an attempt to do well in an area of their life, in this case, academics, has most likely experienced imposter syndrome. Possible causes can include pressure from family or society or even the desire to do perfectly. Anyone who has experienced it knows it’s not the best, and overcoming such feelings can be difficult, but as stated by the American Psychological Association here are some starters to combat imposter syndrome:

  1. Be kind to yourself (self-compassion)
  2. Celebrate your successes: celebrating your successes allows you to recognize that you’re still doing well and you should be proud of it
  3. Share your failures: gathering in groups and sharing your failures prevents you from underestimating yourself and overestimating others.