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Battling Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome - a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a "fraud".

Growing up, I always referred to myself as the “shy kid.” Granted, I came to this country knowing absolutely zero English, to the point where my brother would translate everything I said to our neighbor who took care of us every day. While this may not be an issue anymore—I’ve come to terms with the fact that I cannot speak my mother tongue for my life—I still find it difficult to remove the constraints I put on myself every day.

I dreaded the days of freshman orientation the entire summer and had a heavy pit in my stomach on the drive up back in July. I wasn’t ready to spend two days alone with people I’ve never met before and I insisted on having meals with my parents so people wouldn’t see me in the dining hall alone (flash forward to now to where I take pride in being able to enjoy Stwest stir fry by myself—yes, I do go to Stwest and no, it is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be). I found myself cocooning inside the library the first night, working on my potential schedule for the fall semester. By the time we met up with our advisor to finalize our schedule, I couldn’t wait to reunite with my parents after a mere two days. 

I’m not trying to make this a sob story and, believe me, it is nowhere close to one. Thus, I made it a “mission” my first month here to get involved in as much as I can because even if I fail to get anything out of it, at least I made the effort. In an attempt to limit myself, I constrained one club meeting a day. As expected though, I ended up dropping several of them before the second meeting as my workload began to pile up, and by that, I mean fundies homework. I knew one of my goals for the first semester was to exhibit initiative in at least one of my clubs and, once made aware of open e-board positions in Her Campus, I decided to apply for the editor spot. In all honesty, I did not see myself obtaining the role for three reasons: 1) I am not a journalism major nor am I anywhere close to one; 2) While I was editor-in-chief of my yearbook, graphic design, and journalism are two drastically different things; 3) I second-guessed myself in almost every way before submitting the application. None of this is to say that I only applied to have a leadership role to put on my resume. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; I wanted a way to, both, to improve my writing and proofreading skills and also be involved in an area of study I may not pursue academically but still enjoy—all while coming out of my shell. 

If I had to be frank, despite all this, the term “imposter syndrome” came to mind several times. In both my classes and extracurricular activities, I felt nowhere near adequate compared to my peers who embarked on an abundance of remarkable projects and relationships. The dozens of students in my intro classes who were fluent in programming languages I never even heard of daunted me enough and the resume workshop in our leadership development class only seemed to exemplify this. Needless to say, being one of only three girls in a twenty-person class, for lack of a better word, sucks. No matter how many times I tried to convince myself I belong here, it never processed and I was left reconsidering my classes several times. The numerous hours spent at office hours only seemed to make matters worse as half of my weekday nights were spent claustrophobic in room 142 of ISEC, praying the TAs could just tell me the answers. I awaited the nights where I could just facetime my parents and not worry about the looming deadlines and lack of “going out” I had.

Photo courtesy of Sreya

But there’s something worth noting: My experiences are valid. And quite honestly, I worked my butt off to end up at this institution. I might not have taken the same AP courses as the person sitting next to me in lectures or know as many languages as the guy across from me in recitation, but that doesn’t make my skills any less important than the former or latter. In hindsight, I guess I’ve always suffered from imposter syndrome; I just didn't have a name for the way I was feeling until this semester started. 

To combat this inadequacy in both my academic and social life, I resorted to attending concerts—a pastime of mine that, well, I’ve only done once before coming here, and mind you, it was the day of the SAT. I brought tickets for three artists with distinct sounds all within walking distance from my dorm. There, I didn’t need to worry about whatever academic success I lacked and the few number of close relationships I fostered because, if you’ve ever been to a concert, you know it does not matter what stage of life you’re in. I attempted to put myself out there and make posts asking if anyone was interested in any of those concerts and vice versa. Through this process, I’ve met amazing people I wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to within my dorm or classes. Despite having reoccurring social anxiety, I gained immense independence in the two months I’ve been here, which says a lot considering I’d refuse to place orders at fast-food restaurants when my dad made me. 

Photo courtesy of Sreya

Nonetheless, I still find myself reverting to my self-doubting persona from time to time, but what I’ve slowly started to realize is that everyone feels this way to a certain degree. There’s always going to be someone you compare yourself to, it’s human tendency, but that might not always have to be a bad thing. In fact, what I’ve learned is that instead of belittling myself of satisfaction, I can strive to improve. Instead of simply degrading my resume in relation to my peers, I can use their's as a way to embark on ideas that could better myself. 

I'm not exactly sure what drove me to write this, it kind of just came to me after a two-month-long journey, and, of course, midterm season. I just know that if there’s someone out there who’s struggling with this same thing, realize it’s okay and you’re not perfect—because no one is. You are valid and you deserve to be here.