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A student's guide to imposter syndrome

Written by Bachelor of Laws/Bachelor of Psychological Science student and Vice Chancellor’s Elite scholar Jasmine Tait.

Hi, I’m A-Phoney-Student-And-Everyone-Is-Looking-At-Me-Because-I’m-Not-Smart-Enough-To-Be-Here… What’s your name?

So, you’re finally here! You’re officially a student at Bond University. Whether you’re joining us on campus or remotely from overseas or interstate, congratulations – this marks an exciting new chapter of your life. If you haven’t already, you’re about to experience O Week in all of its glory; the Don’s parties, BUSA interactions and Lakeside dinner dates. Or, maybe your first week at uni looks a little more like virtual catch-ups, getting to know our systems and making new friends over text or social media. Either way, in your first week of university, you’ll have exciting times and meet some amazing people. When Orientation comes to a close, you might wonder what more this incredible place could have to offer. Don’t worry – Don’s parties aren’t going anywhere, nor is Collaborate or Lakeside. Your next thrilling adventure will be attending class. You heard me – the reason you’re here, actual university!

In your first real week of classes, you might wander around the campus aimlessly a bit, or ask a few strangers for directions before you find your classroom. You might wait awkwardly outside the classroom with your peers, wondering ‘is it too early to go in?’ or ‘am I at the right place?’. If you’re logging on from home, chances are you’ll be asking yourself, ‘is this the right Collaborate link?’, ‘am I too early?’… the list goes on.

Law and Psychology student Jasmine (centre) offers her advice for overcoming imposter syndrome

Eventually, you’ll be face to face with a class full of strangers – who are already starting to feel a little more familiar – and going through your first week of tutorial work. Your thoughts might then turn to ‘did I get the right week?’, ‘is this even the correct subject?’ or ‘will everyone think I’m dumb?’. Then, your teacher will probably go around the room and ask you why you’ve chosen the program or course that you have. There’ll be a few profound statements made about passion, pursuing lifelong dreams, helping others… quick! All of a sudden, it’s your turn to answer. What are you going to say that’ll show you’re just as deserving of your seat in this class as everyone else?

The thoughts and feelings you’ll experience as you start classes can be varied, and for many people, nerve-wracking and overwhelming. If you’re feeling this way, you may be experiencing a phenomenon known as imposter syndrome. It’s not a disease or an abnormality; in fact, it’s incredibly common. Studies have shown that up to 70 per cent of people feel like they are ‘imposters’ at least once in their life! This imposterism describes feelings of fraudulence and self-doubt when people believe they are not intelligent or capable enough to deserve the position they’re in. The effects of imposter syndrome can be very real: negative self-talk, burnout, and feelings of inadequacy and dissatisfaction with their position in life. Imposter syndrome can happen at any age, to any gender and at any stage in one’s life, studies or career.

So, from one student to another, let’s talk about overcoming imposter syndrome. Here are a few tips and tricks that might help you ease into your studies if you’re feeling this way.

What can you do to overcome imposter syndrome? Here are some tips, from student to student

1. Fake it till you make it (but not too much). 

‘Fake it till you make it’ can be a great motto to live by. It can be a tool to enlightening just how capable you really are. Fake your confidence, and real confidence will follow as you practice this behaviour over and over. A teacher once told me to ‘just go for it’ – it’s pretty likely you’ve done the work, so you might as well share it (and if you haven’t, there’ll be others in the same boat feeling the way you are). Just ensure that if you’re faking it till you make it, to be aware of your boundaries and to look after yourself as best you can. 

2. Look at the facts. 

Here are the facts – you’ve already made it to university on your own merit. You deserve to be here! So essentially, there’s no need for you to prove or question your abilities. If you’re the kind of person who likes cold, hard facts, then this will hopefully be a comforting thought that’s difficult to pick apart or doubt.

3. Know you’re not alone. 

As we now know, many individuals experience imposter syndrome – regardless of their age, gender or level of skill. Knowing that others share the same feelings and that you are in fact not alone, may help! Even people at the top of their fields have gone through imposter syndrome – from bigshot entrepreneurs to successful entertainers and everyone in between.

4. Talk to others. 

Now that you know that others also feel this way, why not have a chat to them? When I spoke to my peers about how I was feeling, I often found that they either felt the same or could offer some assistance from their own experiences or observations. If your friends don’t feel like the right people to broach this with, reach out to your teacher or supervisors for help. Family can also be a great resource – chances are your parents or siblings will empathise.

5. Ask for help. 

If you’re not comfortable talking to people who are already in your life, don’t stress. Here at Bond, we’re very lucky in that we are offered free and confidential counselling services to help with anything from academic pressures through to personal problems. University can be a breeze at times and an uphill battle at others – but remember that everything is relative, and if you’re ever struggling, you don’t need to go through it alone.

Finally, remember that imposter syndrome isn’t forever, and that your achievements are worth recognising and celebrating. If others can do it, there’ll come a time when you can, too.

Access counselling services

Here at Bond, we offer a range of support services, including free, confidential counselling for students and staff. Get in touch to make an appointment.

Learn more

If you or anyone you know needs help, you can also contact:

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