Navigating Impostor Syndrome at Uni

Catherine Cheng

We've all felt like a complete impostor at some point in our lives, and not only whilst being ‘ejected’ from the spaceship during an Among Us game (for any non-gamers, Among Us is a space-themed game where the players’ goal is to identify and eject ‘impostors’ to stop them from sabotaging the mission). The spaceship that is university can be a difficult one to navigate, and it can definitely feel like we are rushing around pretending to complete tasks, hoping no one catches us and calls us out. Everyone else seems to know what's going on - attending networking events every other week, winning case competitions left and right, president of 4 different societies and still maintaining a HD WAM.

It's easy to forget that impostor syndrome is something that everyone deals with. For me, talking to mentors and hearing about their insecurities and experiences can be a great reminder of the fact that this feeling is not unique to me. Lecturers, society presidents, PhD students and other people that we look up to experience it too, even if their LinkedIn profiles suggest otherwise.

It's also worth recognising that some people will experience more impostor syndrome than others. Being part of the Women in Engineering Society, I've felt much more at ease having a community of support among other female-identifying engineers, where we can celebrate one another's successes. In WIESoc, I've found that being candid about feelings of impostor syndrome with one another can be enough to help everyone feel like less of an impostor.

Sometimes though, feeling like an impostor is valid. As a Computer Science assistant tutor, it's hard to always have the answers. Some of my students have been coding for much longer than I have, and though this was incredibly daunting at first, I recognised that there was a lot that I could gain from being open to learning from others.

At the end of the day, uni is tough and it can feel like you have no idea what you're doing. I certainly don't know what I'm doing some of the time, but I can find a bit of comfort knowing that there are people around me who also don't know what they're doing, or, in the case that they do, that they're willing to show me how they're doing it.