Today someone suggested to me that I might be suffering from impostor syndrome. I hadn’t really considered it before, but now I think about it, it makes a lot of sense.
Since coming to university, I have always had this overarching feeling that I don’t belong here. Although I love my university campus and surrounding area and couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else, I’ve never really felt like I belong on my course. At the moment, I think it comes from the fact that I’m not studying the course I applied for – I switched degree within the first two weeks and now I keep wondering whether I would have been accepted on this course if I had applied directly to it. I imagine myself sitting down and writing my personal statement back in the summer before Year 13 and wonder what I would have wrote to persuade my university to offer me a place on this course. Although I enjoy what I’m studying now – international relations, by the way – politics hasn’t always been a passion of mine, like most of my course mates.
I’ve always struggled to contribute in class throughout school, and since coming to university I’ve found participating in seminar discussions equally as hard. When I’m sat in my seminars, I constantly feel that I’m not good enough, I don’t know enough and I don’t deserve to be here. I always make sure to do all my reading to prepare for seminars and I understand the material, but when it comes to forming opinions and debating with my course mates, my brain freezes and I can’t think of anything to say. To me, it seems like everyone else on my course has a really strong understanding of politics and is really opinionated. I don’t come from a very political family, we hardly ever just had discussions about what was going on in the world when I was growing up so I feel like discussing politics in any way is still very new to me and I haven’t had the opportunity to form strong opinions on things.
I guess because seminars are the most direct way for me to compare myself with other people on my course, I presume because I struggle in this aspect of my course, I must not be good enough to be doing my course at all. Which, thinking about it, is ridiculous. Last year I averaged a 1:1 overall and somehow won the departmental prize for outstanding achievement. However, when I got my grades back, I didn’t really feel anything. I wasn’t happy or proud and I shrugged off my achievements by telling myself that I only did well because I’m good at memorising facts for exams and researching for essays and that I’m not good at my actual subject, just studying in general.
I’ve realised today that my experience of impostor syndrome at university has probably been caused by constantly downplaying my achievements throughout my time at school. I’ve always been a high achiever but for some reason I’ve always felt like I couldn’t celebrate my grades if my friends were disappointed with theirs and now it’s become a habit that I can’t seem to shake.
I think impostor syndrome at university is quite common. When you’re surrounded by people from different educational and personal backgrounds, it’s normal to compare yourself to them to an extent. I think when it becomes a problem is when you start to feel like your ideas and opinions are not valid because ‘everyone else is smarter than you’ or that you ‘don’t belong’ because your learning style is not the same as others. Impostor syndrome can make being a student really hard, but if you also think you suffer from it like me, I want you to know that you’re not alone and that recognise it as a struggle you face is the first step to overcoming it.
I’m not sure if this ramble will be useful to anyone in anyway, but I think it’s helped me to write down and deconstruct my thoughts.
I hope you’re all well and hopefully I’ll be back with another post soon!