You’re trying to write a paper, but you have an overwhelming sense that you’re incapable. You don’t feel up to this new challenge. You think this paper is the moment that you will be exposed as a fraud, as someone who shouldn’t be writing on the collegiate level to begin with. Does this anxiety sound familiar? If so, you’re experiencing impostor syndrome.
Impostor syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” Someone suffering from impostor syndrome believes that they don’t deserve their previous success and that everything up to this moment was just a fluke. If you’re dealing with impostor syndrome, don’t worry; there are strategies to overcome your anxiety.
The first thing you need to know to overcome impostor syndrome is that you’re not alone; about 70% of people feel like a fraud at some point in their lives. Logically, you know all these people can’t be right, so chances are you’re not giving yourself enough credit either. These feelings are totally normal, so when you’re struggling with impostor syndrome, take a moment to put those feelings in perspective. Talk to a friend or mentor who can reassure you that they’ve felt that way, too. Reflect on your past success and acknowledge that nothing is a fluke.
Remember there’s no shame in asking for help. Those who suffer from impostor syndrome tend to want to do everything on their own and have a fear of revealing their struggles. However, hiding your doubts from your peers and mentors only delays your own learning.
There’s no problem in celebrating your success. Perfectionists tend to never be satisfied with their achievements; it always could’ve been better. Be sure to take time to acknowledge what you’ve already done: your last good essay grade, praise from your instructor, or just the fact that you got into college at all. You’ve achieved more than you know.
Above all, remember that not everything has to be perfect every time. College writing is not about topping your last attempt or procrastinating because you’re waiting for the perfect conditions to write. The best way to overcome your impostor syndrome is to push through it. Just start writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect and polished; it doesn’t have to be a final draft. You’ll find you know more than you thought, and that you’re far from being an impostor.
Paper assignments often get more challenging as the semester progresses. You might feel fairly comfortable writing essays based on personal experiences, but the transition into more research-based or argumentative papers can be difficult. You may be asked to incorporate more research than you’re used to. For tips on researching, see Jacky Killian’s recent blog post.
Writing apprehension happens for many reasons including bad past experiences with writing, “negative self-talk”, and perfectionism (Britt et al. 694). Unfortunately, these negative behaviors only make students more nervous about writing which directly affects their grades (Britt et al. 694).
We’ve all been there before: you’ve had class with a professor all semester, but you just can’t seem to understand what they want you to do. Their essay prompts don’t look like they’re asking anything specific. You can’t even find a question on the prompt that you’re supposed to answer. What do you do? Continue reading “How to Read an Essay Prompt”→
An imposing word. An imperative for academic writing. And for science. And history. And business. Research is a cornerstone of writing no matter what major or field a person is in. It can be conducted poorly or conducted well. Woe unto the poorly conducted research and those who practice it, for their house of arguments and analyses will fall apart when the inspector knocks on the door.