Recognize, Manage Impostor Syndrome with These Strategies

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Article By Autumn Siebold You’re in the middle of a presentation, in class, or working on your research. Suddenly, you feel like you shouldn’t be there, because you’re not actually as smart as people think.   If you’ve ever thought that, it may be a sign of imposter syndrome, defined by the International Journal of Behavioral Science as the fear that you’ve only achieved what you have through luck, and your colleagues or friends might realize you’re a fraud.  "It’s not surprising that many graduate students experience imposter syndrome,” said Carol Colatrella, professor of Literature, Media, and Communication and the associate dean for Graduate Education and Faculty Development. “Georgia Tech attracts thousands of skilled individuals, but everyone is also always learning. To remedy the feeling of being an imposter, it helps to acknowledge your own strengths. For example, say to yourself, ‘I am good at x, y, or z.’ Appreciating your powers will inspire you to do your best work." When it comes to addressing imposter syndrome, there are a variety of strategies for dealing with this feeling. For example, Tech’s Counseling Center offers workshops on overcoming the symptoms, as well as counselors you can talk to by appointment or in informal Let’s Talk sessions. We also asked graduate students at Tech who have dealt with imposter syndrome to share their advice. Read on to find out what they said.  Recognize it. “Imposter syndrome can look different for each person and causes a lot of hidden emotional stress,” said Elaine Rhoades, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in Physics. “For me, it most often appears in thoughts of ‘I'm not good enough’ or ‘my peers are so much better at physics than I am.’ Before I realized it was imposter syndrome, it caused me a lot of hidden emotional stress, and was very isolating. Identifying how I was affected by it gave me a way forward in dealing with the stress.” Practice reassurance. “From my own experience and talking to my peers, imposter syndrome is something most people experience at some point,” said Sean Najmi, a Ph.D student in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. “When I’m feeling down about my accomplishments, I remind myself of why I’m here at Tech and how I worked to get here, both during undergrad and in applying. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t try to just think about your accomplishments. Remind yourself you worked hard and you belong.” Reach out. “Starting my master’s was daunting, especially when it seemed like classmates would finish assignments faster than I did and get calls for job interviews earlier than I did,” said Prachi Patwardhan, a master’s student in Computer Science. “But, after reaching out the first few times I didn’t understand things in class, I realized my professors, TAs, and classmates were always more than willing to help. I also made a few friends outside my major, which I highly recommend — it makes things a little less stressful by giving you a break from talking about research.” Stay committed. “In my own experience, imposter syndrome needs to be constantly managed. There isn't a single quick fix to get rid of it,” said Jason Hirschey, a master’s student in Mechanical Engineering. “If anything, I have to make sure not to ignore my feelings of inadequacy, because it can make me fall further behind in class or work and exacerbate the problem. It can also come in waves and be tied to successes or failures in research and classwork. My advice is to keep checking on how you’re feeling, be aware of the symptoms, and refrain from tying your personal worth to others.” For more information and resources on imposter syndrome, visit


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Created: 09/29/2020
  • Modified By: Amelia Pavlik
  • Modified: 09/29/2020

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