Imposter syndrome

By Paul Besley, BA (Hons) Creative Writing, 2nd year

I had Impostor Syndrome big style when the start of university was approaching.

Here are a few facts. I had spent my life at the top of international companies. A mainstream publisher had published my first book, and I had a contract for two more. BUT only the three ‘O levels’ I left school with in 1976. How could I be going to university? Who did I think I was?

Stepping through the university door on the first day is the same for everyone. Some might be confident of their ability and that’s great, others like me might be thinking this is never going to work out.

When I looked at it objectively I realised I was there on merit, like everyone else. The university wanted me to succeed and more importantly believed I could.

So what to do?

The best ways I found of dealing with these thoughts was a simple Engage, Participate, Study and Enjoy.

1. Engage

Engage by being there. I showed up for lectures, seminars, tutorials, workshops, in fact anything that was happening where I thought it would help my studies. I was immersing myself in a new life and it was fun.

2. Participate


Participate in everything. Lectures are for listening. I could prepare by reading the material, turning up early for the lecture, and taking notes, lots of notes. Seminars are for discussion. I decided to speak my thoughts, get stuck in and ask questions. How else was I going to learn?

3. Study

The library is a great place for study. I read and read and read and asked the librarians for help, they are fantastic. I realised I could see my tutors and get their input on my work. For the first time in my life I realised it was OK not to know. I also had my quiet places dotted around the campus where I could go and study away from the bustle of the campus.

4. Enjoy

I got stuck in and the enjoyment followed right alongside me. And the more I enjoyed, the more enthusiastic I became, and that meant that people wanted to engage with me in my studies. Then one day I realised I was a fully-fledged research student studying at Sheffield Hallam and that was where I belonged.