PhD Imposter Syndrome


Hi all, I am new to this forum and would like some advice on how to overcome my imposter syndrome. In Honours, I had to change projects a third of the way through the year because I had a lot of trouble with the first one. The second project was challenging as well, and there were days when I just wanted to quit because I found it hard. But I kept at it and through lots of resilience and trying different things, I was able to finish the project and write up and got a H1. I was told I was lucky that an alternative project was available or I would have had to drop out of the Honours year.

Fast forward to now, and I am 6 months into my PhD with great supervisors and a friendly research group, as well as a project I am enjoying. But at the back of my mind, all of a sudden, a negative voice keeps telling me that I do not belong where I am as I feel like I bluffed my way in. I probably feel this way because I am working with a research group that has high standards. I don't know why I have just started to get these thoughts because things have been well in my PhD and my supervisors tell me I am doing well also.

Has anybody gone through similar thoughts and have ideas on how I can stop thinking like this? Thanks for your input


If you feel that you don't deserve to be doing a PHD then presumably you also believe that everyone else in your group does deserve to be doing one.

That's flawed logic right there. I guarantee you that most of your colleagues lose sleep at night over this exact same feeling. I didn't meet too many people who didn't suffer IS at some point. Look around you. Whether they are telling you or not, I reckon at least 7 out of 10 people that you can see have these doubts.
Part of the PhD mountain is learning to stop obsessing over things which don't matter. The word "deserve" doesn't belong in the world. Nobody "deserves" anything. Everything has to be earned. You are not alone in this.

You have chosen (along with the rest of us) to spend the next few years pushing yourself to the limit academically. By definition this means spending vast amounts of time outside your comfort zone. Your brain doesn't always like that and Imposter Syndrome is one of the many shitty ways it uses to try and force you to go back inside to the warmth of your comfort zone. To stay out in the storm takes real guts which is why lesser people don't manage to get a PhD, and prefer a safe career rather than trying to run their own business etc. Imposter Syndrome is a sign that your PhD is doing what you wanted it to do - stretching you to your limit, just like rain tells you that you are outdoors. Embrace it for that reason.


You are not alone. As pm133 pointed out, Imposter Syndrome is a very common problem amongst PhD students. Like you, I started doubting myself very early on telling myself I wasn’t good enough and that I ‘fluked’ my way onto the programme. Fast forward to the writing-up stage and I can honestly say that those thoughts haven’t completely gone away. There’s ways to manage the problem and you’ll find many articles for this online. Good luck and persevere!


pm133, that is a great perspective to have on imposter syndrome and the best description I've ever heard. Jesse re-read that a couple of times, you wouldn't have got onto the programme if you weren't capable :)


found this video really helpful!
changes your perspective and has helpful tips x