Grad15 webinar summary: Unpacking impostor syndrome

As we launch into a new academic year and grapple with the return of ‘normal’ campus life, the Graduate College remains committed to helping new graduate students find the resources they need to thrive.

For this fall’s inaugural Grad15 mini-webinar, our Graduate Student Support Resources team focused on a common challenge in academic life — impostor syndrome. 

What is impostor syndrome?

Impostor syndrome is defined as a sense of self-perceived phoniness among high-performing individuals in regard to intellectual aptitudes or competence. It is driven by the principle of pluralistic ignorance — or the premise that sufferers of impostor syndrome privately believe themselves to be less ‘worthy’ than others and do not recognize that others are just as privately feeling the same way. Though we often see it manifested in academia, it’s also common in other career areas, too.

Who does impostor syndrome affect?

Impostor syndrome can affect any of us — and by some studies more than 70% of graduate students. Students who are underrepresented (either in academia or within their chosen field) are often most at risk.

Why is it so pervasive in academia?

Impostor syndrome is common in academia because we tend not to talk about it out of a fear of being stigmatized or deemed ‘unfit’ for the rigors of graduate study. Furthermore, the academic culture, with its high bar for entry and competitive nature, lends itself to the experience of self-doubt and impostor syndrome.

How can we combat impostor syndrome?

  • Know when you feel fraudulent

  • Separate feelings from fact

  • Flip your script

  • Embrace a novice mindset

  • Talk about it

To learn more about the five tips shared for shifting your mindset and overcoming impostor syndrome, view the recording of this session or download the presentation slide deck on the GradConnect Canvas resource hub.
You may have to enroll in the course to view the material.

No time for the full presentation? Check out this six-minute TED Ed video outlining impostor syndrome by Elizabeth Cox. 

For more tips, take a look at our Best Practice: Developing resilience and overcoming impostor syndrome.