Imposter Syndrome: ‘I felt I had Cheated my way in to University’

By Kamila Filipek

To mark Stress Awareness Month this April, our resident student blogger Kamila reflects on Imposter Syndrome and how she managed to overcome it.

Many of us may feel like we aren’t smart enough, not as talented as our peers or even a fraud. It’s called Imposter Syndrome and it’s much more common than you think.

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological term which relates to feeling like a fraud or inadequate and being unworthy of success. Imposter syndrome can develop through a number of ways and in all aspects of our lives, with research stating that 70% of people suffer from it as some point in their lives.

The first time I felt like an imposter was during my A Levels. Throughout the two years I was constantly achieving low grade in my science subjects, which had a very big impact on my self-esteem and self- doubt. In the end I achieved BCC. However, to a perfectionist like myself, I felt deflated. Coming to the University of Kent,  felt like an imposter. I felt like I had somehow managed to cheat my way in and that I did not deserve to be there.

In the first few months of university, I started to gain more and more confidence in my own abilities. I started putting up my hand in lecturers, expressing my opinion and getting involved with as much as I could. This was also reflected in my grades; and I realised I was good at this!

Once Covid-19 had started I felt those feelings of doubt and self-criticism coming back. Spending more time online and on social media channels, I began a cycle of ‘compare and despair’ with others, thinking their lives were much better than mine. It is easy to forget that social media usually displays the highlights of people’s lives instead of their reality.

There are many other ways in which the pandemic could have exacerbated the feeling of being not deserving and not worthy of success. Some students did not sit exams before university or in school, their grades dropped during online learning and some of them lost jobs or placements due to Covid-19 through no fault of their own.

Tips to shake off your inner critic

In the last few months, I’ve started to shake off Imposter Syndrome. Here are my top tips for anyone wanting to do the same:

  1. Nevermind the mistakes

We need to stop looking at mistakes as a clarification that we are stupid but start looking at it as a means of learning and growing. As philosopher Suzy Kassem states “doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”

  1. Be honest with yourself

There will be things you will not know; we aren’t all knowing!  Is it not better to be honest about what you know and be curious and ready to learn? Everyone might be in the same position as you, but too scared to say anything. Hence, we create a false perception that everyone is so much smarter than us because nobody speaks up. When you start speaking up, you might realise a lot of people are in the same boat as you!

  1. Regularly stop and celebrate 

We often tend to focus on the things we haven’t yet done. However, it is so vital we stop and celebrate our successes, so that we can look back and see how much we have actually accomplished.  Start a habit of setting some time aside to reflect on your achievements and celebrate them. No matter how big or small!

  1. Stop comparing yourself to others

As Albert Einstein wrote, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” We all have our own strengths but also challenges and we should not compare ourselves to others.

During this Stress Awareness Month, I want to encourage you to start talking more about Imposter Syndrome. Speak to your peers  and it might surprise you how many of us are suffering. You are not alone!

Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992 to raise awareness of the causes and cures for our modern stress epidemic. 

At the University of Kent we aim to build a supportive community environment and we are committed to helping you get the most out of the challenges and opportunities university study brings. Click here for more information on our wellbeing and mental health services.

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