Reflecting On My Journey With Imposter Syndrome

During my first semester at university, I often felt like I didn’t deserve a place on my course. Achieving grade Bs at A-level, when the entry requirements for my course were As, meant that I started my university experience believing that I was already at a disadvantage. When I browsed through my modules for the first time, and saw that the minimum requirement for getting onto the ones I wanted to study were the grades that I had worked so hard for (and were actually really happy with), I was left feeling like I’d only just scraped my way through. Before even getting to the lecture theatre on my first day, in my head, I was at the bottom of the class. Sitting back and reflecting on this now makes me feel ridiculous; in reality, it was an privileged problem to have when I was granted such an incredible opportunity to study at such an amazing university. Yet, imposter syndrome pervades all people of all social classes, genders, and ages: it does not discriminate.

Something that really stuck in my mind after finishing first year is the moment I received my first essay back. I scored a low 2:2, and the girls that I sat next to in the same seminar achieved firsts. Again, this confirmed to me I did not deserve to be in the position I was in. "Why should I be here when I can’t keep up with everyone else?" was a question I asked myself daily, I felt as though I was falling massively behind, and I continued to get essays returned that included feedback which asked me to "write properly". (As an English Literature student, this was particularly upsetting, and if I'm honest, became a huge problem.) As well as this, I was regularly stunned into silence in my seminar meetings when hearing how well-spoken my fellow students were, and how many imaginative ideas continuously came from them. Sometimes, I barely understood the texts that we were looking at, and yet they could fabricate complex and unique viewpoints that were beyond imaginable to me. I spluttered, blushed and apologised frantically whenever I had to read aloud in seminars, and eventually I gave up and stopped attending university all together. I felt as though I was not good enough to attend, and therefore my grades, and engagement with the course, went downhill.

That was, until I got my first exam results back. Over the Christmas break, I had an epiphany. I was going to persist with trying to understand my course and the texts that came with it, and I was determined to get my passion for English back. I worked hard for weeks, and still dreaded recieving my results... Amazingly, I managed to achieve a 68! This gave me the confidence boost I so desperately needed, and I can proudly say that without that my persistance, my willingness to improve, and a whole lot of reading, I don’t know if I would be in my third year of the course right now. After this, my confidence grew, my grades went up, and I could speak confidently in any seminar group. Despite some of these achievements seeming minor, I proved to myself that I could step outside of my imposter syndrome, and that I could make my voice heard, and I was so proud of myself. I am worthy of being heard, even if it isn’t with perfect eloquence.

I suppose that it would be silly to suggest that I have never come face-to-face with my imposter syndrome since my first year of university. I regularly slip in and out of meetings with it, but from our experiences together, I've learned that it’s normal to doubt your abilities from time to time. I was accepted onto my degree for a reason, and that reason is because I deserve it, and I earned it. I urge everyone to start listening to the little, quieter voice in the back of your head, and those around you that support you, when you put yourself down: they’re absolutely right when they tell you that you belong.

Words by Holly Kelly.