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How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome in Graduate School

UL Grad School -- 09/21/2020

Imposter syndrome refers to the experience of feeling ill-equipped or like a fraud. It can happen no matter your level of success and achievement. Even seasoned professors can experience moments of imposter syndrome!

Self-doubt is a normal part of any difficult endeavor, and it is especially common in graduate school. Despite all your hard work, you may feel inadequate and even question whether you are capable of moving forward with your studies.

Learn how to deal with these feelings now so you can work through the difficult moments and thrive.

1. Acknowledge how you’re feeling.

Identify and accept whatever feelings are coming up. Avoid judging or shaming yourself, and remember that your experience is valid and deserves compassion.

2. Avoid comparison.

Comparing yourself to other grad students can hinder learning and make you feel like you’re not doing things the "correct" way. Try to appreciate where you’re at right now and trust the process. Degree completion trajectories and timelines can be different for each person.

3. Know you’re not alone.

Everyone experiences feelings of inadequacy at some point in their graduate career. Talking with your peers, faculty members, and mentors and being open about your experience can help to normalize those feelings. Knowing that others have gone through the same thing can help put your emotions into context.

4. Remember why you’re here.

We know you’ve worked hard to get to where you are today. You belong here! Now is the moment to remind yourself why you came to graduate school and the many accomplishments that got you here. Grad school won’t last forever, so remember that this moment is part of the bigger goals you have for yourself.

5. Make a plan.

If your self-doubt can be linked to a specific project or deadline, start to break down your workload into small, measurable goals. Start blocking off focus time on your calendar, make a to-do list, and formulate a plan for tackling the issue. If you’re having trouble focusing, you may want to try out a new time management technique. If you’re simply feeling too overworked and overwhelmed, plan to take some time off to recharge and engage in self-care.

6. Persevere and build resiliency.

Your ability to work through adversity is a skill that can be learned like any other. In fact, perseverance may be one of the most important skills you master in graduate school! The Graduate School is providing evermore resources to support you and help you build skill sets that will continue to serve you for years to come.

Take some time to watch our video playlist on imposter syndrome and reflect on your own experience.