You Belong Here: How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

NYU students in graduation attire.

Throughout my first year at NYU, I felt very out of place. My whole life I was always the best student in class, then, all of a sudden, I was in college and felt like I was always behind. I remember feeling overwhelmed hearing people talk about the internships they wanted, the career they wanted to build, and even the company they wanted to work for. Was I the only one who had no idea what I wanted to do with my life? Did the admissions counselors make a mistake? What if people realized I’m not as smart as the rest of them?

This is imposter syndrome speaking. A psychological pattern where you constantly doubt your achievements and feel like you’re not as competent as others think you are. This pattern of negative thoughts can happen at any point in your life, and guess what? It’s very common.

Now that you know what imposter syndrome is, here are some ways that you can break that thinking pattern and achieve greater things in your life!

Two NYU students walking in Washington Square Park.

1. Speak Up!

I didn’t know what imposter syndrome was until I vented to a friend and she put a name to all my worries. When I looked it up, the description rang true to everything I experienced when I got into college.

Doubting yourself and feeling like you don’t belong somewhere is absolutely normal. Everyone experiences this, especially heading into a new environment like college. Don’t keep those thoughts bottled up! When you talk to others about what you’re feeling, you’ll realize you’re not the only one going through it. I got close with my best friends in college by talking with them about our shared feelings of doubt. These conversations helped me form a great support network early on. You’re not alone!

Students walking and sitting in Washington Square Park.

2. Develop a Growth Mind-Set

Having imposter syndrome can stem from us feeling insecure about our own abilities and competencies. This makes us over analyze small mistakes and feel overwhelmed by not meeting our own expectations in anything we do. Developing a growth mind-set is the best way to combat this insecurity!

In other words, people who believe their basic qualities can be developed through time and effort have a “growth mind-set.” This is contrary to a “fixed mind-set” where people believe that their basic talents are fixed at birth. A growth mind-set allows us to take every obstacle we face as a stepping stone for our success. We constantly ask for growth, and what’s growth without a little bit of rain? We must free ourselves from our expectation of being perfect, and a growth mind-set helps us realize we are capable of success and prosperity.

Student at NYU Accra working on a loom.

3. Keep a List of Achievements

When we doubt ourselves, it’s easy to forget about all the great things we’ve accomplished. We often over analyze our mistakes instead of reminding ourselves of our growth and achievements. For instance, one of my greatest accomplishments that I often overlook is getting accepted into NYU. It’s easy to forget how great an accomplishment it is when you are surrounded by others who share the same achievement. However, you have to remind yourself that it’s a big deal! Whenever I start doubting my abilities, I look at a screenshot of my acceptance letter. It reminds me that although I may be struggling, I’m struggling in one of the best universities in the world. We all belong here. Keep your list of achievements in a place that’s easy to reach and hard to ignore. It’ll motivate you to keep going!

Five people standing in a circle talking.
Courtesy of John Hope, All About Brands: New Website—Photoshoot 2017

4. Remember Your Worth

“You were meant to be here, and you belong here. Struggling is normal. Feeling out of place is also normal. Never let imposter syndrome stop you from thriving.”

NYU’s Class of 2024 is the University’s most selective class, with an acceptance rate of 15 percent! Each year, the acceptance rate decreases, and just being an NYU student becomes an even more impressive accomplishment. Don’t forget that! I’ve had moments where I believed there were other students in the world who deserved to be at NYU more than me. Once I started working at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, one thing became very clear: admissions counselors don’t admit students by accident. They’ve reviewed thousands of applications and saw your potential to thrive at NYU. You did not “slip between the cracks” into one of the best universities in the world. You were meant to be here, and you belong here. Struggling is normal. Feeling out of place is also normal. Never let imposter syndrome stop you from thriving.

Experiencing imposter syndrome in college is normal. Despite this, you must break that thought pattern and remember that you were meant to be here. Whenever you doubt your abilities, remember all your achievements that led you to this point. Let them drive you and remind you just how much you belong here.