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I’m sure I am not the only person on the planet who suffers from the infamous “imposter syndrome.” In all honesty, I feel like most college students suffer from it, many are just really good at hiding it. If you don’t know, imposter syndrome is a psychological idea that makes people feel undeserving of their achievements and the praise that they receive. People with imposter syndrome usually feel like they’re way overestimated by others around that and that eventually, people will uncover the “truth” about them (almost like they live some double life or wear a mask). It’s horrible, trust me, but there are ways to deal with it.

 

My personal story with imposter syndrome started before college but has bled into almost every area of my life. In high school, I made the cut for our A Capella choir as a Junior but felt like an absolute phony because I had no idea how to sight-read. Thoughts ran through my head every time I entered that class like:

“How am I here?”

“I think he just took pity on me.”

“Did I just get lucky?”

 

These same thoughts ran through my head every time I won an award in sports; Game balls in sports, medals, praise, I felt like I deserved none of it. Art was also a huge area of my life where I felt like I was constantly getting lucky if I created something that looked good. I remember telling my high school speech teacher how I was kind of embarrassed to tell people what I wanted to do with my life. In telling him that, he helped me realize that a lot of people in the creative field feel like that because the nature of creative work and art being subjective makes artists more vulnerable to feeling inadequate, even more so if you are not classically trained/taught. 

 

The truth is, my life motto has been “fake it till’ you make it” pretty much my entire life. Last spring, I applied to an art school in Chicago fully knowing that I had only taken 2 art classes in high school and had absolutely no portfolio-making experience. It was a beautiful trainwreck if I’m being honest. My portfolio looked like when a child plasters glitter glue and washi tape over the ugliest drawing ever and calls it art. Okay, that’s a very exaggerated metaphor, but my portfolio was under-researched, underdeveloped, and just screamed “I’m in over my head.” But I pushed through anyway, made it aesthetic, made a cute little cover, and gave every drawing description and dates. I felt like an absolute phony. Not that my “disguise” worked anyway, they definitely saw right through it, and it crushed me. 

 

We live in a culture of constant productivity. If you’re not doing something productive at every point in your day, you’re “lazy”, or “behind.” Often in a society where we expect ourselves to achieve things at every turn, we rob ourselves of the joy and meaningfulness of success. We lose our “why” because we’re focusing so much on “what” and the “how.” It’s so important to celebrate your successes, no matter how big or small. It’s also important to note about the people around you that have supported you up to now. Do you really think that all the people that helped you get to where you are today did so because they “pitied you?” Well, snap out of it. Those same people helped you because they see potential in you and redeeming qualities in you and your work, and professionals don’t spend hours of their time, money, and expertise on people whom they see nothing in. Trust in what others see in you, and maybe you’ll see it too.

 

I think one of the other most important aspects of getting over imposter syndrome is leaning into the vulnerability you feel. Put yourself out there, post your art, publish your articles, take risks and get out of your comfort zone! Not only that, but you should also remember to treat yourself the way you treat your friends around you when something good happens to them. You wouldn’t judge others for what they’ve achieved so why judge yourself? There are things that come easy to people that don't come easy to others while some may have to work a little harder. No matter what, everybody works hard to accomplish their goals, it doesn’t matter how much harder one worked over another. It’s so easy to be caught up in comparison no matter what your job is, but an important thing to remember is that you won’t be distracted by comparison if you are captivated with purpose.

 

I came across a quote sometime last year when I was applying for colleges, making my job resume, and getting really bad imposter syndrome. It said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” To this day, I can’t think of something that rings true more than that quote. You don’t just get a job you want just because of luck. You obviously had to make a resume for that job, ask for references, gain prior experience, volunteer, get an internship, etc. You prepare for stuff like that. As for opportunities, you need to put yourself in a position to be lucky. You can’t win the lottery without a lottery ticket, and you can’t get a job if they’re not hiring. Same thing goes for if you have connections in an industry you want a job in, you just have to swoop in and take your opportunities by the horns! You don’t get lucky without preparation and opportunity, you need both. If I'm being fully transparent here, I had the opportunity part down but I didn’t have the preparation part when I applied for the animation program here. Like I said earlier, I was crushed. It absolutely sucked getting rejected from the thing I wanted most at the time, but I just wasn’t ready.

 

If you’re going to take anything away from what I said here today, you need to be kinder to yourself, stop underestimating your potential, and start taking risks. Life isn’t some big mystery where there’s a certain “truth to uncover” about you, you’re not an imposter. Quit selling yourself short, keep working your butt off and you’ll achieve more than you could possibly imagine. I’ll get there someday, so will you.

Taylor Staples is currently studying Journalism/Telecommunications with a minor in Screenwriting and Film. Taylor is involved in the WCRD 91.3 radio as an anchor/writer, the Digital Corps, and the CC media team. In her free time, Taylor loves to chill out with a good cartoon and some cocoa.
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