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Tips For Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

The college experience, for many, is a combination of excitement, learning, and growth. Many undergrads may experience life for the first time in a new city, with new people, and a whole set of new challenges.

For Ellie Younger, sophomore at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the biggest challenge has been the feeling that she doesn’t belong.

“Recently, after adding a new class mid-semester, I began feeling like I wasn’t good enough to complete the work asked of me,” Younger writes in a blog post. “I stared at my readings for my classes with glassy eyes, focused instead on my thoughts. I worried that I was interpreting my readings wrong, even though I knew they were up for my own interpretation. I began telling myself mid-assignment that I wasn’t smart enough for the classes I was in, or that I wouldn’t produce results that would get me the grades I wanted.”

That feeling is what many experts call imposter syndrome.

“To put it simply, imposter syndrome is the experience of feeling like a phony—you feel as though at any moment you are going to be found out as a fraud—like you don’t belong where you are, and you only got there through dumb luck,” Arlin Cuncic, the author of “Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder” and “7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety,” writes. “It can affect anyone no matter their social status, work background, skill level, or degree of expertise.”

While it’s natural to feel imposter syndrome, there are techniques to overcome it. And addressing those feelings of inadequacy early on can help you in the long run.

REFRAMING NEGATIVES

Perspective can often play a large role in how we adapt to problems and challenges. When it comes to overcoming imposter syndrome, it’s no different. Younger says reframing negative thoughts in your mind can be a huge help.

“Turn ‘I am not good enough’ into ‘I am good enough’ and ‘I am not smart enough’ into ‘this is challenging right now, but I can figure it out,’” she writes. “This helps me remember what is true and what is just negative self-talk.”

It can also be easy, however, to simply ignore the negative thoughts when you feel them. Thus, Younger says, it’s critical to recognize when thinking is imposter syndrome and to not let the negative thoughts go unnoticed.

“I try to catch myself thinking these things so I don’t internalize them without even realizing what I’m doing,” Younger writes. “Of course, it’s a lot harder to actually do than to say.”

STEP BACK & BREATHE

Often, feelings of inadequacy may arise when one is going through a tough week of school or work. During these times, Younger recommends taking a break, even if only to just breathe.

“Try to ground yourself and remember that you made it to where you are because of your hard work,” Younger writes. “I do this when the negative thoughts start coming, and it allows me to lower my anxiety a little.”

In times of stress, Younger says, it’s especially important to take a step back to focus on your own well-being.

“It may seem like homework or studying is the priority, but in reality, it is you,” Younger writes. “I often try to engage in an act of self-care or self-reflection, something that turns the attention away from my work and onto myself.”

Sources: University of Michigan, Verywell Mind

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