Ok, so there are many things that can spark anxiety when going to university.
How about imposter syndrome?
Well, what is it?
Imposter syndrome is when you doubt your own abilities so much that you feel like a fraud. In terms of uni, some people don’t feel like they’re worthy enough to be at a certain university, or to be doing a certain course, or to even be studying at degree level at all. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments and question whether they're deserving of accolades. Basically, it’s an extreme lack of confidence that can impact your every waking minute.
If this sounds familiar, and you think imposter syndrome is pretty much describing you, then you really need to step back and rationalise things.
Here are some tips for overcoming anxiety caused by imposter syndrome:
- Understand that feeling is not always fact - even though you feel like a phony, your qualifications and/or experience will clearly demonstrate otherwise, so tell yourself that you are worthy - it’s all there on paper
- Own your accomplishments - don’t downplay your successes by putting them down to “luck,” “hard work” or “help from others” rather than your ability to achieve and intelligence.
- Break your silence - shame keeps a lot of people from admitting they are feeling imposter syndrome. Talk to people about it. They’ll probably reassure you that you ARE worthy.
- Develop a healthy response to failure - instead of beating yourself up for falling short, think about the value of failure and learn vital lessons. EVERYBODY has bad days and suffers failure - this doesn’t define you.
- Don’t be afraid of winging it - we all have to fly by the seat of our pants from time-to-time, so instead of seeing yourself as an imposter for doing so, credit it as a great skill of yours. Did you get the desired result regardless? Yes, well there you go.
When suffering from self-doubt, it’s easy to think that you’re the only one who’s ever felt that way. But this is definitely not the case. Even the most successful, powerful and accomplished people have suffered imposter syndrome. Michelle Obama once said, when recalling her experience: “Am I too loud? Too much? Dreaming too big?
Eventually, I just got tired of always worrying what everyone else thought of me, so I decided not to listen.”
So, what else causes anxiety when going to uni?
Recognise any of these?
The fear of independence - is this the first time away from home? Worried that you’re not going to manage washing your own socks? Do you even know how to work a washing machine? Can you cook, or do you fear you’ll never be out the chippy? Who’s going to keep your place clean, do the washing up, hoover the floors and make sure there are supplies in the cupboard? Have you ever been food shopping before?
Well listen, don’t worry. You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. This is a very common cause of anxiety, and you’d be surprised how quickly and easily most young people adapt and cope with their newfound freedom.
The daunting reality that you are responsible now - what about getting yourself out of bed in the morning? Paying the bills? Ensuring your work is done and deadlines are met? Organising your doctors, dentists and other crucial appointments?
Get yourself organised with a diary or planner and buy yourself a few alarm clocks. Write everything down and be responsible the night before you have important engagements. Make friends with people on your course too - they should both remind and inspire you to meet your deadlines.
Homesickness - yes, we’ll all miss home, it’s only natural. And there’s nothing quite like your own bedroom, is there? Many people find that being in unfamiliar surroundings and not really knowing areas as well as home intimidating, which can cause anxiety about going out.
Well, do the right things. Explore your new town/city in groups, download the university app with maps and vital security information, and make your new abode as homely and comfortable as possible so you don’t feel so distant and alone.
Making new friends - ok, so it’s not quite as easy as that. Some people really fear being thrown into the mix with a lot of strangers. Social anxiety is a very real problem.
Know this - everyone is in the same boat, and even though some are more sociable than others, everyone is in that situation where they have left home and now need new friends. Don’t alienate yourself from folk - make introductions in the common areas, join the student union, explore clubs and societies, and make a special effort with those living next door. Making friends is a huge stress relief.
Remember, if you have anxiety about going to university:
You ARE worthy.
You are NOT a fraud.
You CAN do it.
You WILL be absolutely fine.
You ARE enough.