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Tips for Developing Resilience
Against Imposter Syndrome

You may have come across the term “imposter syndrome” at some point in your life, and chances are you've heard it used in the context of how it may affect some professionals in their careers. But the fact is that it’s quite common among graduate students as well. Research suggests that up to 70% of adults may experience it at least once in their lives. In this article, we’ll share some helpful tips for developing resilience against imposter syndrome.  

Why think about imposter syndrome in the context of graduate school? Because imposter syndrome is so common that it’s important to know how to recognize it. It can impact your academic performance by decreasing your confidence and taking energy away from your studies. The important thing is to remind yourself that you have accomplished so much already and earned your place in your graduate program. 

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a term used to describe a common phenomenon that can bring on feelings of self-doubt and incompetence, often coupled with a fear of being discovered as a fraud. Those who experience imposter syndrome often feel they aren’t as intelligent or accomplished as their peers, downplaying their successes, and attributing them to external factors such as luck or timing.1

This phenomenon is a lot more common than you might think. In graduate school, imposter syndrome can manifest itself as comparing yourself negatively to other students and can leave you wondering if you are smart enough or deserving enough to be there. It affects your self-confidence and adds unnecessary stress to your life.  

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Developing Resilience

Below are some common strategies you can use to help develop resilience against imposter syndrome: 

  1. Ask for Help: Let your professor or advisor know how you feel, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. They want to help you succeed, and don’t be surprised if they share their own stories of overcoming self-doubt. Connect with your classmates; they may have gone through the same challenges and be able to offer advice. Numerous resources are available to help you. All you need to do is speak up!
  2. Reframe Your Thoughts: Practice positive thinking by reframing your thoughts and focusing on how far you have come. Celebrate your accomplishments! Remove the emotion and look at the facts. The fact is you worked hard to get here. Don’t let anyone, especially yourself, take that away from you. 
  3. Leverage your classmates: You and your classmates all have unique strengths. Some classmates may even have more experience than you in a particular subject matter. Learning from your classmates and seeing other perspectives is exactly what will make your experience in your program that much more valuable. Remember, everyone in your program is there to learn — it’s not a competition. 
  4. Remember You Are Learning: Don’t let minor setbacks derail your progress. You may not get straight A’s on all your assignments, but that is okay. Use it as an opportunity to recognize where you might need to ask for help or spend a little more time understanding the subject matter. You are a student, after all, and your purpose is to learn. Keep doing your best, ask for help when needed, and keep moving forward. 

Graduate school is an exciting journey, and we hope that this article provides another tool for you to help build confidence and be more successful in your program. It’s not luck, you are on your grad school path because you earned your place in the program. Your dedication and hard work brought you to this point. Remember to celebrate your victories, and don’t dwell on the setbacks. Instead, reframe them in your mind as opportunities to learn and grow! 

1Benisek, Alexandra. “What Is Imposter Syndrome?” WebMD, January 15, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-imposter-syndrome.

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