Overcoming Imposter Syndrome: Building Confidence Whilst At University

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Do you constantly downplay your success, or believe that whatever you do is never going to be good enough? You could very well be suffering from feelings of imposter syndrome. 

Imposter syndrome involves feelings of anxiousness, self-doubt and incompetence about your abilities, and affects around 43% of students during their time at university. 

In this guide, we’ll be discussing how imposter syndrome affects students, what exactly it is, and how you can deal with it and build confidence whilst at uni! 

imposter syndrome university

What Is Imposter Syndrome? 

The term imposter syndrome dates back to a 1978 study and describes feeling like a fraud, despite your achievements. 

Everyone suffers with feelings of self-doubt, but with imposter syndrome, you have heightened anxiety about your skills, talents, accomplishments, and have an internalised fear of being outed as a fraud. 

Being in an environment where you’re constantly assessed and are expected to achieve your academic goals can no doubt cause imposter syndrome. 

what is imposter syndrome

Signs Of Imposter Syndrome 

Whilst imposter syndrome isn’t a mental illness in itself, if you struggle with this condition, chances are you may also suffer from anxiety and depression.

Below we’ve listed just a few of the signs you may be suffering from imposter syndrome: 

  • Self-doubt about your skills and competence
  • Decreased self-confidence
  • Isolating yourself from others 
  • High levels of perfectionism
  • Experiencing burnout
  • Setting impossibly high standards for yourself
  • Low self-esteem
  • Intense fear of failure

signs of imposter syndrome

How To Deal With Imposter Syndrome 

Imposter syndrome has the potential to knock your confidence and impact your wellbeing at university, but don’t worry, there are ways you can deal with it.  

We’ve put together some helpful tips for overcoming imposter syndrome, so carry on reading to find out! 

how to deal with imposter syndrome

1. Acknowledge Your Achievements 

Whilst it may seem like everyone around you is smarter, more capable or more talented, this is just imposter syndrome talking. 

It can make you feel like you’re undeserving of your accomplishments, but you’re not, you deserve to be where you are, and you’ve worked hard to get there. 

To help with these feelings of inadequacy, you should take time to reflect on your accomplishments, regardless if they’re big or small. 

It could be wise to keep a journal and write down all your achievements and what you’re proud of yourself for. 

Looking at positive feedback from your lecturers for assignments could be helpful too! 

Acknowledge Your Achievements 

2. Talk About Your Feelings 

Everyone needs a safe space to open up about their feelings, so if you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, don’t hesitate to talk to people. 

There is plenty of help  out there whether it’s talking to your support network, talking to your lecturers, or even talking to other students. 

Imposter syndrome is increasingly common in university students, so you won’t be the only one who’s experiencing it, there will be other people in the same boat as you. 

By talking about your feelings with other people, it can help you to gain a sense of perspective and take a weight off your shoulders. 

If you’re suffering with feelings of anxiety and depression due to imposter syndrome, don’t suffer in silence, speak to your GP. 

Need further help? The UK’s leading mental health charity for students, Student Minds offers valuable resources.

talking to friends imposter syndrome university

3. Establish Ways To Relieve Stress 

Imposter syndrome can increase your stress and anxiety levels and negatively impact your wellbeing, so it’s crucial that you find ways to cope. 

If you’re struggling, you should try to prioritise your physical and mental health by doing things that make you happy and relaxed. 

Practising mindfulness techniques and meditation could help you to stay present and manage any negative thought patterns that are associated with imposter syndrome.  

Whether it’s exercising, spending time with friends, pursuing hobbies, cooking, reading or so on, stress management is key! 

stress relief

4. Try To Avoid Comparison 

If you want to put your imposter syndrome to rest, you should try to avoid comparing yourself to other people.

Avoiding comparison is easier said than done, especially due to the accessibility of social media, but constantly comparing yourself to others is not good for your self-confidence. 

Whether it’s comparing yourself to people on your university course, comparing yourself to friends or even strangers online, if you catch yourself comparing yourself to others, quit. 

It’s important to remember that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and you’re on your unique path. 

So, rather than focusing on other people’s success stories, focus on yours! 

comparing yourself to others

5. Challenge Perfectionism 

Perfectionism occurs when you set unrealistic standards for yourself and feel inadequate when you fall short, and is common with imposter syndrome. 

Rather than striving to be perfect at everything, you should learn to accept that you don’t have to be good at everything and it’s okay to make mistakes, everyone fails at something. 

Whilst aiming to get the top marks in an assessment or exam is good, you shouldn’t set yourself unreasonably high goals, instead be realistic – like they say, practice makes perfect! 

challenging perfectionism

6. Be Kind To Yourself 

The fear of being perceived as an imposter can cause you to constantly question your own abilities and constantly seek validation from others. 

Whilst the feelings associated with imposter syndrome aren’t just going to go overnight, if you treat yourself with kindness, the load will feel a lot easier to manage. 

Try to give yourself the same level of compassion and understanding you would offer to someone in your life, such as a friend or family. 

If you do make a mistake or feel inadequate, remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes and experiences self-doubt. 

Negative self-talk can limit you and increases your stress levels.

Instead, speak positively about yourself and your abilities – always look on the bright side!

being kind to yourself imposter syndrome

By acknowledging your achievements, seeking support, managing stress, avoiding comparisons, challenging perfectionism, as well as being kind to yourself, you can effectively overcome imposter syndrome at university. 

You would not be where you are today if you were an imposter, remember you’re deserving of your university place and all of your accomplishments, believe in yourself! 

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