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January 4, 2022, by Leah Sharpe

How To Deal With Imposter Phenomenon

By Ash Watts, Professional Services Projects Officer

What are you doing here? You don’t deserve to be here. You don’t belong here. Are these common thoughts, familiar voices or words in your head? Well, you’re not the only one, in fact it is suggested that 70% of people have had these thoughts and feelings. It is becoming more apparent now than ever that people experience this, and it is known better as imposter phenomenon.

Think that it isn’t true? It happened to me when I took on my first primary teaching role. Stood in front of the class with 30 kids looking up at me waiting for pearls of wisdom on conjunctives, adverbial openers or how to do long division. Thoughts running through my head. ‘What am I doing, I don’t belong in front of these students, I’m a fraud.’ But lesson by lesson, day by day, week by week, the feelings passed and I felt a sense of belonging and created strong relationships with my class. It doesn’t just happen to the people like myself, it happens to some of the most elite people within their fields. Albert Einstein said ‘The exaggerated esteem in which my lifework is held makes me very ill at ease. I feel compelled to think of myself as an involuntary swindler.’ Or even more recently, Adele during a performance when asked a question stated ‘I always feel a bit of imposter syndrome in everything I do.’

But what about you? How do you know that you belong and deserve your position at university? Are you feeling like you’re ready to take the next step, whether it be a placement, part time job or applying for a graduate role? Here are my top tips to help navigate some of these thoughts:

Tackling Imposter Phenomenon

Reframing your feelings

Feelings often resonate in our lives because we make assumptions that our opinions are facts. For example, ‘I don’t know how to do this because I am not good enough.’ This is an opinion that you are imposing on yourself, and it is a self-deprecating thought. One way to address this is to think about reframing your thoughts and how we speak to ourselves. Taking the original statement ‘I don’t know how to do this because I am not good enough’ and reframing the same feelings into a more positive approach, ‘I am learning new skills and I am not the complete package…yet’. A simple but effective way of being kinder to yourself.

Recognising your hard work

We are always keen to say that we were ‘lucky’ when something goes well for us. When paid a compliment have you replied with, ‘oh I was lucky really’? This diminishes the hard work you put in to get that compliment. Instead, give thanks for the compliments that you receive. Think about the hard work that you did to get the compliment and recall it. It wasn’t lucky, it was deserved. You put in the hard work, so don’t apologise or say that you were lucky, say thank you.

Speak up

The old proverb ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is never truer than in the case of imposter phenomenon. Unfortunately, too many people don’t talk about the feelings through fear or shame. If you do talk to someone, a friend, colleague or tutor, it can be incredibly freeing and feel like a weight has been lifted.


Take time to visualise what success looks like to you. The first element of being successful is knowing what success looks like to you. If you don’t know what success looks like, then how can you achieve it?

Reward yourself

When you have success take a step back and reward yourself. It can become a vicious cycle constantly seeking validation from other people. Actually, when you’ve completed a task or achieved something then reward yourself. Whether it be a nice coffee, an episode of your favourite Netflix show, or just giving yourself a well deserved pat on the back!

I hope this helps with any feelings you may be having around imposter phenomenon. If you require further support or would like to speak to someone about these feelings, book an appointment with the Careers team.

Posted in Career wellbeingCareers Advice