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by Rob Porter | April 25, 2024


Whether you’re a student or a professional, you might come across a situation where you begin to question your abilities and achievements for one reason or another. This can lead to pervasive thoughts of self-doubt and inadequacy, which will have a negative impact on your development moving forward. This phenomenon is known as imposter syndrome, and it can be absolutely crippling if you don’t know how to deal with it. Here’s how to recognize the signs of and overcome imposter syndrome.

Recognizing Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome manifests as a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It’s an irrational state of thinking in which the individual experiences thoughts of not being good enough or that they are underserving of past accomplishments. While in this state of mind an individual may become less confident, disillusioned, or even depressed. Of course, this will greatly stifle progress in a person’s personal and professional development.


Students may feel the effects of imposter syndrome in academic settings, as well as in athletics. For example, a student may be fearful of failing an exam or presenting a project in front of a group of other students. Student athletes may start to question past accomplishments on the field, while developing a fear of failing or letting their team down. In either case, the individual may begin to compare themselves to their peers or doubt their ability to succeed, leading to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

The first step students should take in overcoming imposter syndrome is recognizing that they’re not alone. For example, if you’re unsure of presenting in front of others, there’s a good chance that the people around you feel the same way. It’s important to remember that a major aspect of your college education is figuring yourself out and learning to recognize your strengths and weaknesses.

Building a great support network is critical in defending yourself against imposter syndrome. Your network might include trusted friends, family members, or a mentor. In moments of self-doubt, your network can provide reassurance and a new perspective. When looking back on past accomplishments, let them be what builds your confidence, rather than what you measure yourself by in the present.


Professionals aren’t immune to imposter syndrome either, and even the most accomplished individuals can get locked into a pattern of self-doubt and negative thoughts. In fact, the argument can be made that the higher the stakes are, the more intense those feelings can become. Individuals may begin to suffer from imposter syndrome after a promotion, or after a particularly successful project.

As a professional, imposter syndrome can not only affect your job, but it can also wreak havoc on your personal life. For example, if your performance suffers to the point of consistently missing deadlines or handing in failed projects, you could lose your job. This could lead to economic hardship and difficulty paying bills. At the very least, imposter syndrome will undermine your confidence and hinder you from realizing your true potential and pursuing new opportunities.

With a bit more life experience under their belt when compared to students, professionals may be able to overcome imposter syndrome by changing their perspective. Rather than focusing on fear and other negative thoughts, reflect on your strengths and past accomplishments in order to reinforce confidence. Communication can also help tremendously, and professionals who are feeling the effects of imposter syndrome may reach out to colleagues, mentors, or network connections to gain perspective and reassurance.

Imposter syndrome can affect just about anyone, regardless of their level of experience or whether they’re a student or a professional. By learning how to recognize the signs of imposter syndrome, you’ll be able to develop strategies to overcome it. With a solid support network, self-awareness, and an open mind, you’ll keep feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt at bay, while being able to confidently pursue your goals.