Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Life > Experiences

How I Deal With Imposter Syndrome This Back-To-School Season

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

I remember when my life began to be measured in weeks, ten weeks to be exact. As I sit in class and see the next ten weeks of my life planned out in the form of a syllabus, I realize how little time I have to do the things that everyone tells me I should be doing. This includes applying to clubs and graduate school, picking up hobbies, applying to internships, creating personal connections with my professors, volunteering, conducting research and building my portfolio all while maintaining a competitive GPA and questioning if I’m even good enough to be where I am.

If you’re questioning the same thing, let me spoil the ending and tell you now that you are more than capable of being exactly where you are. The fact of the matter is that if you weren’t ready, you wouldn’t have been given the opportunity in the first place. Imposter syndrome is difficult to shake off at times, and I still encounter that overwhelming feeling even now as I enter my senior year at UCLA.

This phenomenon manifests differently for a lot of people and for me, it involves regressing back into a five-year-old girl who didn’t speak any English. It’s the moments in class when the professor is going over a challenging topic, or when I’m assigned a dense reading written by an old dead guy who doesn’t seem to speak English either and even sometimes when my classmates discuss topics I haven’t even heard of in group settings.

When this happens, I am five again. Spanish is my first language, and I remember a day in kindergarten when my teacher asked me to grab a ruler from her desk. I didn’t know what a ruler was, but I knew she was asking me to retrieve something, so instead of asking what that was, I wandered over and grabbed a pair of safety scissors. Clearly, that wasn’t what she had asked for, so she asked me to go back again and I grabbed something else, but not the ruler. Finally, her patience gave in, and she sighed while asking the girl next to her to grab the ruler. I assumed that they were being entertained watching me struggle because when the girl came back she irritably said, “Do you not know what a ruler is?” and laughed with my teacher.

I didn’t fully digest just how much that formative event would fuel my drive and cause feelings of not belonging. But over time I realized, it wasn’t that I didn’t belong, but rather that they didn’t want me to belong. If you can relate, there’s good news and bad news: the bad news is that there is an external or internal reason causing us to feel this way, but the good news is the comfort of knowing we’re not alone!

At the end of a busy Wednesday in the middle of week two, I felt defeated by the tasks I had taken on and still to come in the near future, so I went on a walk and I cried out any pent-up emotions. Once I felt better I called my mom, my dad and my best friend. After my long-distance phone calls, I decided it was time to go back to my apartment and as I opened the door, I saw the lovely faces of my roommates in the kitchen. They were happy to see me and I was happy to see them; we always come back to the kitchen table and reflect on our days.

As I was feeling timid to share my bad day, my roommate began sharing how difficult the day had been for her and how staggering our responsibilities felt this fall quarter. I was grateful to be able to have honest and vulnerable conversations with girls who started as roommates, but have become some of my closest friends because in having these conversations, I realized that I’m not alone. We are not alone.

We work so hard to get to where we’re at that we’re scared of messing up and ruining what we’ve spent so much time and energy building for ourselves. Could it be possible we’re scared to be vulnerable about the fact that maybe we’re all just young kids trying to prove something?

If you’re reading this, I hope you know that imposter syndrome is a liar and that despite what you may feel, you do belong and people are rooting for you.

Odette is a first-generation Mexican-American senior completing her undergraduate degree at the University of California Los Angeles. This is her first year on the HerCampus editorial team and is super excited about being able to improve her portfolio and experience as a writer. Outside of HerCampus Odette enjoys reading books of fiction and writing songs and poetry.