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As a student in today’s academic environment, you likely face a great deal of stress from both external sources (teachers, supervisors, parents) and internal ones (the pressure to achieve, the desire to live up to expectations, comparisons made on social media). Under this barrage of expectations, it is not surprising that you may come under the influence of “imposter syndrome” at some point during your academic career

What is Imposter Syndrome? 

Individuals experiencing imposter syndrome often believe that they are not capable or deserving of their success and have somehow managed to deceive others into thinking they are more competent than they really are. This phenomenon has increased with the inflated use of social media, as we are all bombarded with content that shows a stream of unwavering confidence as others excel, succeed, and look good doing it. It is hard not to compare yourselves. 

For students, in particular, imposter syndrome can manifest in many ways. You may feel like you do not belong in your academic program, or lack the skills needed enough to succeed in the long run. As university applications and responses start to come in, you might even feel that you have somehow tricked the admissions committee into accepting you or that you will not prove to be as capable as your peers when the time comes.

Feeling like this is not much fun, and as you may already be aware— can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and low self-esteem. These emotions, in turn, can have a negative impact on your academic performance and overall well-being

It is more common than you think 

If this is a phenomenon you can relate to, please know that it is normal and extremely common, especially as your high school experience comes to an end. The transition to university marks a major shift and period of growth in your life as you experience new challenges, opportunities, and priorities. Balancing these while retaining a semblance of ‘normal life’ can be overwhelming at times, even for the most prepared of us.

Imposter Syndrome by CAS Trips

How you can beat it 

The good news is that practicing simple mindfulness and resilience-building techniques, and learning how to participate in your chosen field in a healthy and active way, can help you overcome imposter syndrome. Here are some strategies to help you regain your confidence:

  • Reframe negative self-talk: When you notice negative self-talk or self-doubt, try reframing it more positively. For example, instead of saying, “I’m not good enough,” try saying, “I’m still learning and improving.”
  • Seek support and guidance: Seek out mentors, advisors, or other professionals who can provide advice and support. Talking to someone who has been through similar experiences can be incredibly helpful.
  • Celebrate your accomplishments: Take time to celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they may seem. This can help boost your confidence and counteract feelings of imposter syndrome.
  • Focus on learning and growth: Instead of perfection, focus on learning and development. Remember that everyone makes mistakes and that failure is a natural part of the learning process.
  • Take action: One of the best ways to overcome imposter syndrome is to take action. Take on challenges and opportunities, even if they make you feel uncomfortable. Remember that every experience is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Reframe your relationship with social media

As stated above, social media can often serve to reinforcing imposter syndrome and generally contributing to low self-esteem. But, when used wisely, it can also be a powerful tool to help you find inspiration, develop your voice, connect with like-minded individuals, and set yourself on the right track professionally. 

Of course, it must be used in a healthy way to offer these benefits. Here are some tips for how to use social media in a positive and constructive way:

  • Follow positive and inspiring accounts: Social media is filled with accounts that can make us feel inferior and inadequate. Instead, follow accounts that inspire you and motivate you to be the best version of yourself. Look for accounts related to your field of interest, successful professionals in your field, and motivational speakers.
  • Engage with a supportive community: Engage with like-minded individuals on social media who share your goals and interests. Join groups and communities related to your field, and interact with others who are going through similar experiences. This can help you feel less alone in your struggles and provide a supportive environment to overcome imposter syndrome.
  • Use social media as a learning tool: Social media can be a great way to learn new things and gain new insights. Follow thought leaders in your field, participate in discussions, and read articles and blog posts related to your interests. This can help you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and developments in your field and provide inspiration for your own work.
  • Take breaks when needed: Social media can also be overwhelming and stressful at times. If you find that social media is negatively impacting your mental health or contributing to imposter syndrome, take a break. It’s essential to prioritize your own well-being and mental health above social media engagement.

Ultimately, you should create a social media environment for yourself that reinforces the belief that you can achieve your goals and reminds you that it is ok to feel unsure at times. When looking for support in building up your confidence and getting ready to take on a new challenge,  look to spend your time online building your professional network and familiarizing yourself with a specific field of interest. 

By following these best practices, you can use social media in an intelligent way to feel inspired and secure in your abilities, and set yourself up for success in your university studies and beyond.