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How Students and Parents can Overcome Imposter Syndrome

How Students and Parents can Overcome Imposter Syndrome

“Am I good enough?”

“Do I belong here?”

“What if they find out I’m not as smart as they think I am?”

“I don’t deserve this success.”

If you’ve had this kind of self-talk sometime during your life, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced imposter syndrome—even if you didn’t know the name for it at the time. It’s characterized by feelings of not being good enough, not deserving of your successes, and even being a fraud who will be found out by others. Unfortunately, imposter syndrome isn’t just a phenomenon that affects adults. Students—especially high achievers–experience it too.

First defined in 1978 in a research article cowritten by Dr. Pauline Clance and Dr. Suzanne Imes, imposter syndrome is considered an internal experience of intellectual phoniness as a reaction to particular stimuli or events. Studies suggest that more than 70 percent of adults experience imposter syndrome at some point in their career and that it equally affects all genders. There is also evidence that feelings of being a fraud may be especially common among people of color who are academics and high achievers.

Although there isn’t a lot of data on imposter syndrome in students, a lot of them are speaking up about their fears of failure, being inadequate, and perhaps most heartbreakingly, not belonging in a given setting like an AP® class. Students of color and student-athletes can be especially vulnerable to this negative self-talk.

So how do you recognize the signs of imposter syndrome in children? And more importantly, how do you help them overcome their feelings of extreme self-doubt? Start with a casual conversation. As a parent, you probably know that some of the most honest chats with your child happen when you’re driving in the car, sharing a snack, or getting some exercise together.

Ways to identify the signs of imposter syndrome

Symptoms of burnout and a fear of failure aren’t just grown-up feelings. If students seem less motivated or detached from things that used to inspire them, it could be a red flag. Here are several other signs to consider:

Tips to help your student overcome imposter syndrome

Means to provide your student with the opportunity to thrive

Students are under so much pressure to thrive academically, especially now, as they navigate remote and hybrid learning. Apex Learning Virtual School offers many flexible supports to high-achieving students, including honors and AP® courses, self-paced Tutorials, and a full-time virtual high school to help them find balance in their lives and follow their dreams. Learn more at

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