How to Manage Impostor Phenomenon (IP) Feelings in Grad School
By Paul Delgado, Graduate Program Assistant
Do you ever feel like you’re tricking everyone around you and in reality you don’t belong in a particular space? You’re not alone and you’re definitely not the only one feeling like this!
The impostor phenomenon (also known as the impostor syndrome) was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. They described it as a common feeling among high achievers unable to internalize and accept their success. In most cases, they attribute their accomplishments to luck or good timing rather than their ability to succeed. Although it’s not an actual disorder, it’s based on a very specific form of intellectual self-doubt.
In my case, I remember when I first joined the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I felt like it was probably a mistake on behalf of the admissions committee. Although I had the credentials and the training that got me that acceptance, I felt like they would sooner than later discover that I was a fraud and that I didn’t actually deserve a spot in my program. I had just been lucky enough to get in or maybe it was just the result of affirmative action.
Was I wrong for feeling like that? Maybe not. Do I still feel like that? Sometimes. Although those thoughts have not completely gone away, I continue to remind myself that I do belong in the space and I am not here by accident.
Impostor syndrome [phenomenon] will have you questioning your place in the spaces that you prayed about being in. It’s a lie. You’re capable. You’re allowed to learn. You belong.@JonathonPuIIiam
Navigating Impostor Phenomenon in Grad School
We have five tips to help grad students navigate IP. The first two are below and part two will cover the rest.
1. Recognize the problem exists
Awareness is the first step to change. Recognize when you’re feeling like an impostor and what situations trigger those thoughts. Many of us go through that phase when starting a new phase of our careers. The key is to not let those feelings control your actions. Everyone says, “Fake it till you make it!” But is pretending that everything is okay the same as things actually being okay?
You may not be able to overcome the problem without talking to someone about it. Talk to your mentors and people you trust. Graduate school is challenging and you want to have a strong support system. You will soon find out that these feelings are common among academic scholars and many people experience moments of doubt.
2. Own your own successes
You know how much work, commitment, and consistency you have done over the years to get to where you are. Although you may have had mentors along the way, take pride in your achievements and learn to celebrate all wins.
You can do this by creating a success log where you write down things that made you feel accomplished at the end of the day or the week.
Remember you are here for a reason. You were chosen for a reason. You are better than you think you are. You know more than you give yourself credit for. You belong here. Remember that. If you need to talk through issues related to IP, contact us in the Office of Student Life. We are here for you!