We’ve all heard we should fake it until we make it, but what happens when it feels like others aren’t seeing the real you? What happens when you’re convinced you’re not as smart as people think you are and not deserving of the praise you receive? It might surprise you to know you’re not alone. In fact, the problem is so common it even has a name: impostor syndrome. It’s a natural reaction to the pressure you feel to succeed, but there are ways to fight it and start believing in yourself.
Writing down your thoughts will help you sort through them and find clarity.
When negative thoughts take over, reach for your journal. Write down everything you’re thinking and worrying about. Perhaps you feel you’re at college through luck rather than merit, that your research is pointless, and that soon everyone will figure out you don’t deserve your place. Get it all down, then tear out the page and rip it up. This process destroys those words and the power they have over you.
Negativity doesn’t deserve a permanent place in your journal, but positivity does. Note the good things that happen to you, the praise you receive, and the great grades you earn — no achievement is too small. Look back through your journal for positive reinforcement whenever you feel like a fake.
Tutoring is an excellent way to remind yourself of your skills. When you tutor, you’ll pass what you know, which reinforces how much knowledge you actually have. When you see your students achieving, you’ll share in that success. As your student base grows, your own confidence should too. After all, if you were really as inept as you believe, would people ask for your help?
Positive referrals are the best way to expand your student base, but they can initially be hard to come by. Leave your contact details with teachers and counselors at local schools. Advertise on Craigslist and create a simple website and social media pages. Ask family members and friends if they know anyone needing tutoring. Start small, and you’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.
Talk About It
It can be terrifying to consider opening up about your feelings, but there are some important reasons why you should. When you share your problems, you’ll stop feeling like they’re all on your shoulders. The people you open up to share some of the weight too, and they can help you through it.
Talk to trusted friends about the way you’re feeling. You might even discover they’re feeling the same way, which will make you feel less alone.
If you’re too scared to talk to your peers, then consider opening up to your academic advisor or a counselor. Your mentor is likely to recall a time that he or she struggled with similar doubts and what helped those feelings pass. Because counselors are trained to deal with problems like yours, they can listen to you impartially and suggest proven strategies to change your thinking.
Impostor syndrome can take a serious toll on your well-being, but with these strategies, you can stop feeling like a fake and start trusting yourself.