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How to deal with the imposter syndrome when starting university

I knew from an early age that I wanted to study abroad. I always thought I would be studying in Los Angeles because I was (still slightly am) obsessed with Leonardo DiCaprio but I ended up falling deeply in love with London. As Johnny Depp said: If you fall in love with two people at the same time, choose the second one because if you were in love with the first one you wouldn’t fall in love with the second one.

So, I ended up moving to London to study law.

I am originally from France and although learning English is compulsory from age 12 until 18, when I first arrived in London I could barely ask for directions. Learning English from a teacher with a thick French accent will only get you so far!

I was so insecure about my level of English that I would skip interviews because I had convinced myself that my English was not good enough, I’ll never get the job, so why bother?

So, you can imagine my surprise when I received an unconditional offer from University College London (my dream university) to complete my Master of Law (LLM) – I was literally jumping up and down with excitement.

But after that initial rush passed I started to feel overwhelmed by fear. My mind was flooded with a thousand worries: What if I fail? What if I cannot understand the lecturer? What If I cannot manage to work part-time alongside my studies? And the ultimate killer: what if I am not good enough and disappoint everyone who believed in me?

What I was experiencing was a version of what is known as the imposter syndrome. This is when you feel that you are somewhere that you don’t belong, that you’re in over your head, that you just got lucky. You live with the fear of being found out as a fraud at any moment. My imposter syndrome wasn’t so extreme, I had worked hard and got good grades. But I still felt I had got lucky and I would struggle to study in English. I was completely overlooking the fact that I had learnt many new things every year of my life, but this is what fear can do to you, you stop thinking rationally.

How can you beat the imposter syndrome? Here are the three things that helped me:

1. Remind yourself: If you got in it is because you can handle it

I was in a state of panic when one of my professors at my university in Lyon talked me through the process they go through before offering a space to a prospective student. They take into consideration so many elements and some universities will even interview you before they place an offer. My professor told me that it was not in the interest of the university to take on students who weren’t up to the challenge. If you are serious enough about your degree to read this article, then you are more than capable of handling university!


2. Share your thoughts with a trusted friend

This will give you some perspective. It is very easy to get tied in knots thinking negative thoughts. Tell a trusted friend that you think that you only made it to university out of luck. If they know you at all they should set you straight because nobody makes it without working hard. Sometimes all it takes is to say your thoughts out loud for you to realise how ridiculous they are. You will also strengthen your friendship by sharing something so personal with them.


3. Reframe your thinking
Make a conscious choice to see yourself as worthy and capable of this challenge. Instead of dwelling on your shortcomings, start seeing your strengths and what makes you unique. If you constantly see yourself as an imposter, then you will become one. Flip the situation – see the massive opportunity instead of the daunting challenge. If you want to learn more about reframing, check out this short article on Thrive Global

You are blessed to have secured a spot at your university, don’t let imposter syndrome ruin your experience. You are always where you are meant to be!