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Nearly half of students experience imposter syndrome – experts reveal how to tackle it

UK Google searches relating to 'imposter syndrome' reached an all-time high at the end of last year, research from The University of Law has found.  In January 2022, search volumes were even greater than the year before with more people curious about the mental health phenomenon.

Further to this, research from Study Hub found that two in five (43%) of university students may suffer from imposter syndrome, showing how common it is amongst the demographic.

It is still unknown exactly what causes it, but the pressures of perfectionism, ever increasing social comparisons and a fear of failure all contribute. For many students however, exams and assignments are always at the forefront of their mind.

Working harder is usually not the solution as it can cause burnout, so instead, experts at The University of Law Business School advise you to follow these simple steps to look after yourself whilst studying or looking for graduate work.

Talk about it

When it comes to mental health, acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step to helping yourself. Saying it out loud can help put it into perspective.

Talking to your family, friends and professors can help you feel less overwhelmed, and you may find that others feel the same way. The people around you know what you're capable of and so will your future employers. There are also a number of services offered at university to help and support you whilst you are studying who will help you make decisions and changes that can develop your emotional resilience, enabling you to fulfil your academic, vocational and personal potential.

Stop comparing yourself

With social media so prevalent in society, people are constantly comparing themselves to their peers, favourite influencers and businesspeople. It’s important to remember that social media shows only a fraction of people's lives, and most people will have gone or are going through a very similar experience.

Going on a social media cleanse for a week or two is a good way to free yourself from thoughts of comparison. Unfollow accounts that you know can trigger negative feelings towards your own progress, or even delete social media altogether. You may also find that you naturally become more productive and have a clearer mind during study periods.

Reframe your thoughts

When you make mistakes or fall back into old habits, it is natural to feel disappointed in yourself and sometimes feel like you have ‘failed’. An important practice is to reframe this narrative, and view mistakes or failure as a learning experience.

Making mistakes is a crucial step in developing your skills and are a direct result of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. The next time you have a setback, which is very common while studying or applying for new jobs, write down three things you can learn from it and apply them to future tasks to help you in your professional development.

Reward yourself

Start celebrating the small wins, whether it’s getting to the first stage of an interview, presenting in front of people or simply making it to the end of a busy week. Creating a positive attitude towards your work will help remove negative thoughts.

Reward yourself with physical objects such as chocolate or new clothes, as well as personal time and relaxation with a good book or Netflix for each small win so that you have something to look forward to and give you drive. It’s also important to reward yourself with positive words and affirmations. As uncomfortable as it can be, standing in front of a mirror and telling yourself you are proud, and deserving can have a drastic effect on your mental wellbeing.

John Watkins, Director of Employability at The University of Law Business School: “The transition from student into the workplace can be one of the most daunting tasks and can be extremely stressful for someone who doesn’t think they are deserving of a new job.

“Imposter syndrome is widely experienced by students, so it’s likely that you know someone who is having the same thoughts and feelings. There is no quick fix to removing imposter thoughts, but there are adjustments you can make in your life that will help change your mindset and realise your worth.

“The advice above is shared with the hope of improving the mindset of those struggling with imposter syndrome, so that they can be the best version of themselves and excel in both their work and personal lives.”