“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 name it at the time. It’s characterized by feelings of not being good enough, not deserving of your successes, and even of 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 described in 1978 in an article co-written by two female doctors, imposter syndrome is not classified as a mental disorder, but considered an individual experience. 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, there are a lot of them speaking up about their fears of failure, being inadequate, and perhaps most heartbreaking, 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 your student? 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 some of the most honest chats with your child happen when you’re in the car, sharing a snack, or getting some exercise together. Identifying the signs of imposter syndrome Symptoms of burnout and a fear of failure aren’t just a grown-up thing. If your student seems less motivated or detached from things that used to inspire them, it could be a red flag. Here are several other signs to consider: Resistance to taking a healthy, mental break from schoolwork. Overcompensating by doing much more work on a project than is required (i.e. displaying signs of perfectionism). Making excuses for achieving success. For example, if your student relates a reward to “luck” or “good timing,” that could be an indicator they are struggling with imposter syndrome. Similarly, your student may deflect praise and not accept compliments due to disbelief in the recognition. A new environment can be stressful even without imposter syndrome, but be on the look-out for indications that your student feels like they don’t belong in a specific setting. Tips for helping your student overcome imposter syndrome Regulate the pressure you (and others) put on your student. Chances are, they’re putting a ton of pressure on themselves. Try not to label your student as “the smart one,” “the responsible one,” or “the overachiever.” Instead, recognize behaviors like work ethic, perseverance, and attention to detail. Be careful about raising the bar on rewards, which can create more stress. Talk about it. Enlist the help of your school counselor or a private therapist to make your student feel supported and less isolated with their negative thoughts. Encourage your student to write a letter to themselves explaining why their success isn’t an accident. Share articles and blogs written by other students about imposter syndrome with your child. Consider an opportunity for your student to mentor others which can build confidence and be rewarding. Gently encourage your student to accept compliments with a heartfelt “thank you” for a job well done. Provide your student with the opportunity to thrive Our students are under so much pressure to thrive academically, especially now as they navigate remote and hybrid learning. We offer many flexible supports to high-achieving students including Honors and AP® Courses, self-paced Tutorials, and full-time virtual high school to help them find balance in their lives while following their dreams. Learn more at www.apexlearningvs.com.