Why Does Impostor Syndrome Occur?

The issue covered in this edition is the "Imposter Syndrome." Sometimes it will feel like you're not competent enough to complete an advanced degree or that others are more cut out for it. This is the Syndrome talking, don't listen.

An empty auditorium
Thursday, November 11, 2021

Pressure to Achieve

Often, students who are high achieving, top-performing perfectionists struggle the most with Imposter Syndrome. In graduate school and doctoral programs, students are surrounded by professors at the top of their field and highly successful students. It may feel like you don't belong in their ranks. It will be tempting to compare yourself and your progress to those around you.

Women are more often plagued by the Imposter Syndrome. There is a competence-confidence mismatch that can be created, especially in male-dominated fields.

The danger of the Imposter Syndrome is it can lead to negative self-fulfilling prophecies. When students believe they are inadequate or unworthy, the quality of their work can decrease, leading to poorer results which reinforces the feelings of weakness or ineptitude.


  • Work harder
    • Drive to earn the spot
  • Work smarter
    • Rethink the current strategy
  • Learn better
    • Humbly seek insight fromothers

Examples of Imposter Syndrome

  • A perpetual feeling of inadequacy or incompetence
  • Believing you don't deserve the recognition you're receiving
  • Doubting success is your own, but instead the result of low standards, lucky timing, or personal charm
  • Being driven to focus on impression management and self-monitoring for fear of being "found out"