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Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Posted by Jessica Stensrud Monday, Aug. 17, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic carries on and the new school year starts, it's easier than ever to feel overwhelmed. Many are trying to keep their mental health in check, which includes bouts of self-doubt known as impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is the feeling of being a fraud or not good enough in the face of success. It can have a destructive effect on your education, work, and mental well-being.

Nearly 70% of the population feels imposter syndrome at some point, including successful women and men. This feeling is also tied to nursing students. Any time there is a change in one's professional journey, there can be imposter feelings, including vulnerability and unworthiness. This can leave many new nurses feeling fear, lacking confidence or preventing them from advancing in their careers.

So what can you do when you feel like you can't cut it (even though you're doing great)? Impostor syndrome never really goes away but the ways in which you face it can be controlled. Here are practical ways to manage self-doubt and achieve greatness.

Impostor syndrome effects many students, including nursing students.


This is totally normal!

First of all, you're never alone. Very few people, if any, walk into a new job or new school and feel completely confident. Everyone struggles at first and has similar feelings — some people are just better at hiding anxiety than others. Fellow nursing students and even those advanced in their careers all feel impostor syndrome at one point or another and feel out of place. Ever heard, "Fake it 'til you make it"? That applies to school, work and your personal life. Everyone fakes confidence to disguise feelings of self-doubt and feeling overwhelmed. The important thing is when you know to ask for help if these feelings don't go away.


Don't think like an impostor.

Easier said than done, we know. This really is the only way to break this vicious cycle. Force yourself to think like a non-impostor by recognizing when you should and shouldn't feel fraudulent. If you don't totally fit in right away, that's ok. Feeling like an outsider does not mean you're inept or not cut out for school or a certain job.


Talk about your feelings.

The good news is, this feeling is usually not permanent and can effect anyone. Impostor syndrome is a monster that sneaks up on many confident, successful people — even those you might never suspect or even feel envious of. A trusted friend, teacher, mentor or fellow student will be able to provide guidance and reassurance of your competence. Once you talk openly about your feelings, they're brought to light and less scary. If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone, keep a journal and write about how you feel. You might find you can track changes in your feelings and feel a sense of growth and accomplishment when you look back.


Write down your strengths.

Silence your inner critic and remind yourself of your strengths and positive attributes. Force yourself, if you have to, to remember why you're deserving of your successes, despite your strong feelings of inadequacy. Read the list of your strong suits to yourself every day and praise yourself to have more of a positive outlook and less self-doubt in school and at work. 

Accept your flaws.

We all know the old adage, "Change what we cannot accept, and accept what we cannot change." Perfection is unrealistic, and flaws are what make us human. They can be a good thing! Be willing to accept your less-than-perfect attributes but also remember that impostor syndrome makes us have perfectionist tendencies and impossible standards that no one can achieve. If we didn't have imperfections, we'd never strive to be better or learn career and life lessons.


You know more than you think.

Give yourself major praise because you have retained way more knowledge than you think you have. You'd be shocked at how much will come back to you from school, studying, clinicals and lectures. And if you can't recall everything, don't beat yourself up. Quit the negative self talk. Give yourself time. It's okay to ask questions. Consider how far you've come and think of the accomplishments you've made so far. Getting into nursing school is a huge achievement, and you should be proud of yourself.

Nebraska Methodist College strives to teach its students heartset, mindset and skillset. Students are armed with the courage, knowledge and confidence to bring their skills into the world. Read more about coping with negative thought and building psychological resilience from our president and CEO, Deb Carlson. 

If you want to make a difference in the lives of others, check out Nebraska Methodist College to further your education and start a life-changing career.

Topics: student life, wellness, nursing, resilience

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