Why Do Students Feel Like an Imposter in Their Lives?

Why Do Students Feel Like an Imposter in Their Lives?
By Ahmad Amirali

Last week, after class, one of my students came to me ask me ‘Sir, do you like to play video games?’ I replied, ‘yes, but how do you know?’ The student said, ‘Sir because I saw your websites and YouTube channel and find out that you modified many games like ten years ago and this fascinates me as you know what Sir, I am also a developer. I smiled and appreciated him of having an interest in this field. He showed me his project, which fascinates me as it was a mobile app and its related to book searching. He not only develops the app, but it practically fetches result in real-time from google. I appreciate him and encourage him to include this app as a Science Project in school. It was this moment where his smile vanishes, and he said ‘Sir, I don’t think, so I am capable of presenting it in the science fair.’ I astonishingly asked him, ‘Why do you think like that? You managed to develop such an amazing app, and this achievement itself shows your capability.’ He replied ‘Sir, it’s not a big deal, anybody can do it. I simply follow the discussion boards and copied codes from different forums, and it was just my luck that I somehow ended up with such an app. He then left for another subject class. This small yet strange conversation left me with many questions in my head. However, one question that puzzled me most was, why does he not believe in his abilities and simply give all the credit to his LUCK? What makes himself to think as an unworthy person and yet his ideas were just a result of copy and paste?

This feeling where you consider yourself as an imposter or fraud that you somehow managed to bluff your way into the situation and in reality you are not as talented as you showed is called ‘Imposter Syndrome’. Imposter Syndrome is a familiar feeling among students and can be incredibly isolating. It’s still unknown precisely what causes it, but the pressures of perfectionism, ever-increasing social comparisons and a fear of failure all contribute. The question what triggers such feelings of fraudulence? According to Elizabeth Cox, an educator, people who are highly skilled or accomplished tend to think others are just as skilled. This can coil into feelings that they don’t deserve praises and opportunities over other people.

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Interestingly, Elizabeth connects this syndrome with another phenomenon called ‘Pluralistic Ignorance’ where we each doubt ourselves privately, but believe we’re alone in thinking that way because no one else voices their misgivings. Since it’s tough to know how hard our peers work, how difficult they find specific tasks, or how much they doubt themselves, there’s no easy way to dismiss feelings that we’re less capable than the people around us. Intense feelings of impostorism can prevent people from sharing their great ideas or applying for jobs and programs where they’d excel.

So, Sir, how to overcome such feelings and anxiety? The easiest way is to talk about it. Many suffer from imposter syndrome daily and are afraid to share their achievements and performance in public. Even when they receive positive feedback, it often fails to ease feelings of fraudulence. But when you share such beliefs and hear that even the most successful people have experienced such impostorism, it helps relieve these anxieties.

Good Luck!

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