Student Support Specialist
Student looking at other student

Who are you? It seems like a simple question. Take a few minutes to honestly think about how you would describe yourself. What do you believe is the most important thing for someone to know about you?

You may realize that you cannot describe yourself in just one way. Individuals do not have one single identity; instead, they have many overlapping identities. Some elements of your identity may feel more important to you than others, but these overlapping identities are what make each person and their experiences unique.

Students at the SALT Center have a common experience of educational and learning challenges. Yet, how students self-identify can make a significant difference in their college experiences. Taking ownership of neurodivergency and engaging with the SALT Center can often be a determining factor in college success.

What is Imposter Syndrome?

Imposter syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which individuals feel undeserving of their accomplishments, and attribute success to uncontrollable factors, such as luck or the generosity of others. Rather than seeing oneself as able or intelligent enough to earn success, individuals who experience imposter syndrome fear that they will be discovered as an imposter.

Students who experience imposter syndrome are more likely to have additional stress and depression. It is common for those who experience imposter syndrome to feel as if they are the only ones who feel this way, not only increasing isolation, but also making them unsure who they can turn to for support. Although 70% of individuals have feelings of being an imposter at some point in their lives, individuals who are members of minority groups, such as those who are neurodivergent, have been found to be increasingly likely to experience imposter syndrome.

Life transitions may be another trigger of imposter syndrome, as individuals may feel undeserving of their new opportunity and compare themselves to others with more experience. Imposter syndrome may be heightened when starting college or starting a career post-graduation. However, it is important to remember that there is a difference between not knowing anything and needing guidance.

Many people just starting out in new situations require time to adjust and learn the ropes. Moving from the K-12 system to adulthood and learning how to navigate college has unique starting points for everyone.

Combatting Imposter Syndrome

Struggling with feelings of being a fraud or undeserving of accomplishments is often ongoing. Imposter syndrome has no quick fix, but there are strategies you can use to combat these feelings when they surface.

Celebrate your accomplishments.

One of the major elements of imposter syndrome is feeling that accomplishments are due to external factors. This strategy for combating imposter syndrome revolves around acknowledging accomplishments and reflecting on your work. You should not be afraid to reward yourself. Taking a moment to reflect on your work and rewarding yourself with a positive experience afterward can provide you with evidence of success. Acknowledging and celebrating the accomplishment, either alone or with supporters, is the key to this strategy.

Question negative thoughts.

Feeling like a failure and that you are not good enough to be where you are is a challenging place to be. Failing at something may feel like the end of the world. But it’s important to be kind to yourself and acknowledge how far you have come. Remember that growth and success require you to step outside your comfort zone. Taking steps on the path you want to be on shows effort and helps to replace those negative thoughts.

Find mentors and supporters.

An important thing to remember in any situation is that asking others, including those with more experience, is how you learn. Talking with others may offer a unique perspective and is an important step in redirecting self-doubt. Sharing your feelings with others can help you find a support network to talk through your fears and celebrate your accomplishments.

Stop comparing yourself to others.

Everyone starts at a different point in their life, with various privileges or disadvantages. No two people will be in the same place at the same time. It may have taken you longer to get to where you are due to your learning or attention challenge, or you may feel that others have an easier time. Look at your progress and take note of what you do know and understand that learning is a growth process. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you. No matter how many people have supported you to get to where you are, remember, you put in the work!