Have you ever had the feeling that you’re a fraud and you don’t deserve to be here? That feeling is commonly referred to as 'imposter syndrome'.
Studying at uni has the potential to incite feelings of inadequacy in students. Combined with remote learning and missed connections with peers, these feelings might lead students to engage in academic dishonesty to overcome the challenges they're experiencing.
Imposter syndrome is a fear that your outward character is a fraud and that your successes are attributed to luck or happenstance. This is common in environments where there are defined expectations, like studying at uni where being assessed is part of daily life. Imposter syndrome magnifies these expectations with an irrational lens – ultimately making us feel convinced of our ‘inevitable’ failure and unworthiness.
Imposter syndrome has been recognised as a state of negative self-perception. This belief in our imposter status is often unfounded, yet is universally experienced and allows for debilitating insecurity. This can cause people to seek out ways to prevent the ‘exposure’ of their supposed inadequacy.
Research supports claims that imposter syndrome is increasingly common in academic environments. The recent pandemic has understandably exacerbated insecurity in university students and remote learning has decreased the ease of forming community connections. The feeling of belonging to a community is key to warding off imposter syndrome.
In an attempt to avoid feelings of inadequacy, students with imposter tendencies may turn to solutions that may be considered academic dishonesty. This could involve re-using an earlier assignment or relying too heavily on a friend’s paper, or even worse, engaging someone else to contribute to their assignment. These all have serious consequences.
Academic dishonesty is often discussed in a manner that suggests any deviation from academic integrity is automatically immoral and corrupt. This can neglect the context which frames instances such as these. Imposter syndrome may play a role in making academic dishonesty appear the only option to protect not only yourself, but your friends.
Below are some examples of imposter syndrome interacting with academic dishonesty:
In the effort to escape being exposed as inadequate, students who choose to engage in academic dishonesty legitimise imposter syndrome instead of disproving it. It’s important to remember that the University is there to support students in their academic endeavours and provides many services that assist students in pursuing academic honesty.
Imposter syndrome can be overcome by engaging with the experience itself rather than the feelings of inferiority. Here are some quick tips to help you overcome these feelings:
Imposter syndrome has the potential to drain your confidence and impact student wellbeing. The inward thinking and irrational nature of this experience can make it hard to challenge the inadequate self-perception that it causes. If you're experiencing any of the symptoms of imposter syndrome, it's important to seek help early and ensure you're following academic honesty guidelines in your studies.