Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering hosts event on impostor syndrome


K-State Advancement of Women in Science and Engineering hosted an event on Wednesday to inform students about impostor syndrome, how to recognize it and how to reign it in.

Impostor syndrome is the false belief that one’s successes are the product of luck or fraud, rather than skill.

Christine Aikens, professor in chemistry, said around 80 percent of people struggle with impostor syndrome and often times people do not realize they have it.

Aikens said she first learned about impostor syndrome in graduate school when she read an article about a professor who struggled with the psychological pattern.

“I had an ‘aha’ moment when I read that article,” Aikens said. “It made it clear to me that I was not the only one who felt that way.”

She explained how graduate school can be a hard time for students, while learning new things, meeting big name people and leaving them thinking “how on earth am I supposed to be like them?”

Aikens attended an event along with Chardie Baird, executive director of KAWSE and associate professor in sociology, after which they both decided it would be beneficial to put on an event for students to spread awareness about impostor syndrome.

Baird said a great way to help decrease impostor syndrome is to first acknowledge it and to also be aware that one’s environment can cause a person to feel this way.

“When you’re in an environment where you seem ‘different’ you are likely to feel fraudulent and that is normal,” Baird said, “it’s important to know that it is not a deficiency in you, it is a deficiency in the environment you are in.”

Some graduate students related personally with this message.

“The environment that I am in here at K-State has made a beneficial difference in how I feel confidence wise,” said Lydia De Wolf, graduate student in mathematics. “Here, I feel it is okay to not know everything and I don’t feel like I need to fool people to make them think I’m something that I’m not.”

Baird shared tips on how to cope with impostor syndrome.

“It is important to build a community,” Baird said. “One human being is never going to be all the things that you need.”

Keely Grossnickle, graduate student in mathematics, agreed with Baird’s advice on community being a good way to draw in a persons impostor syndrome.

“Creating a supportive community for myself was something that really helped me, as well as becoming open and honest with those around me,” Grossnickle said.

Beard and Aikens said they hope events like this bring awareness to impostor syndrome, and give students the feeling that they are not alone.