Thursday 3 September 2020

Imposter Syndrome

Emily discusses her experiences with imposter syndrome and what has helped her to manage it.

- Emily Maybanks

Have you ever experienced those intense feelings of self-doubt, to the extent that you often feel like a fraud, or like you do not belong somewhere, or you don’t deserve a certain position, such as a job? This is called imposter syndrome and it is described as “an internal belief that you are not good enough or don’t belong.” (BBC). The feeling is most commonly found in the workplace but can also manifest itself in other areas of life like social situations. It can affect people of all backgrounds and emerges for a variety of reasons including someone’s upbringing, background and specific circumstances at the time. These thoughts can undoubtedly have very negative effects on our mental health. 

This imposter syndrome has affected my life a lot since I graduated from Swansea University, and even before that, in most areas of my life. When I was volunteering for my students’ newspaper – the Waterfront – in my final year of university, and gained positions such as the deputy editor and the designer, I often felt like I was too inexperienced to do either position to someone who was, for example, actually studying a media/journalism/design related degree. Later on, when I’ve had positions such as Teacher and Activity Leader for two years in a row with UK Language Courses, teaching English to teenagers from a variety of different countries and then my short time teaching in China – I felt like a fraud, because there were others who had years and years of experience and much better qualifications who I thought could do the position so much better than me. And, as I go into a new job as a Learning Support Assistant and English as an Additional Language teacher at my old secondary school, these feelings are certainly coming back full force. Why do I deserve this job? What if I fail? What makes them think I’ll be any good? What if I don’t fit in?

I remember feeling like a total fraud at my graduation. I am one of those people who thinks they didn’t deserve the degree classification they were awarded. I struggled hugely with my mental and physical health during my time at university and came out with a 2:2 and I vividly remember shaking hands with the Vice Chancellor at my graduation and thinking “I don’t deserve to be here; I don’t deserve my degree.” But, although I struggled through university, I also worked hard to get my degree and overcame many challenges through sheer hard work, dedication and determination and some stubborn inability to give up. 

There are lots of ways to help combat these feelings of imposter syndrome. First of all, it is important to remember that the feelings and emotions, whilst unwanted, are completely normal and valid. Furthermore, I also know that speaking to oneself more kindly and positively helps to combat these feelings of imposter syndrome. Telling yourself things such as “remember that your success has not purely been down to luck” or “it is your hard work, determination, intelligence and perseverance that has got you this far”. Dedicate five minutes a day to reminding yourself of everything you’ve been able to achieve, and say out loud what it is you’ve done to get there. Is it that you studied three or four or five years for a degree? Or spent those weekends and evenings working on that big presentation or lesson plan etc.? Finally, put yourself in your friend’s shoes and imagine how they view your success and hard work. 

I think that we often hide away our true selves and become overruled by our inner voices, especially the ones that tell us to be quiet and not to speak out because we may sound silly or we might be found out. I fear we hide what makes us brilliant – our true selves, being authentic and saying what we truly mean and really feel. Our friends, colleagues, loved ones and mentors could tell us 100’s or even 1000’s of positive things about us and we would never believe them, but as soon as someone says just one negative thing, we believe it for the rest of our lives. But, it should be the opposite, we should be lifting each other up, helping each other to be stronger and braver and wise, rather than bringing each other down. 

For more information about mental health support for students, visit Find Support

My name is Emily (Em). In 2018, I graduated from Swansea University with a BA degree in Modern Languages, Translation & Interpreting where I was also passionate about and dedicated to Swansea Student Media and the University students’ newspaper – Waterfront. I am currently working as a Learning Support Assistant & English as an Additional Language Teacher at my former Secondary School. I write for the Student Minds blog because I have experienced mental health issues as a student and now also as a graduate, as well as various other health issues, and I strongly believe that it is important to keep having open and honest conversations about mental health, especially during and after university. I am also a passionate writer and writing has been important in my mental health experiences – both in helping me to explore and to cope with my mental health, as well as sharing my story in order to help and inspire others.

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