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Understanding Imposter Syndrome: How I Am Overcoming It

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

Have you ever felt like you do not belong or you have not earned a right to be where you are? When you were praised for your work, did you feel embarrassed or unworthy of such praise? When you received a compliment about how you looked, did you counter it with a list of flaws and imperfections? These feelings and thoughts are symptoms of a psychological phenomenon called imposter syndrome.

When I got accepted into UCLA, I checked over and over if they got the right name. Did they mean to accept someone else? Did they accidentally send me an acceptance letter instead of a rejection letter? How was I able to get into this school?

When I first stepped foot into my school, I felt confused as to why I even got accepted and how I managed to make it into the #1 public school in the United States. I constantly doubted myself, and I felt like it was just dumb luck. I felt like anything I would say or do would reveal that I was not meant to be at this school – that it was just a mistake in their system. I felt like I would be “caught” and revealed to be an idiot who did not deserve to be at UCLA.

a bunch of books
Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

This is not to brag about myself, but on paper and by my peers, I was known to be a hard worker. And in my mind, I knew that I had struggled a lot and put in a lot of effort to get to where I was. Despite all of this, in my heart, I felt burdened by the thought that I just did not deserve to be here. I felt that I had to continue to maintain this image of being a hard worker, so I tried my best in my classes and piled on thing after thing on my plate. In addition to my classes, I was working at two jobs, participating in club activities, trying to maintain good relationships with my family and friends, and doing research all at the same time. I did not last very long. I felt so embarrassed that I could not even make it past a month without burning out.

My feelings of inadequacy were exacerbated by the fact that I had a difficult time speaking up in class and always presented myself as an introvert, incapable of making a meaningful contribution to the discussion. I looked left and right to the other students who had no problem with coming up with some eloquent thoughts to input while I was scrambling my brain to think of something to say. Because I was so caught up in comparing myself to others and thinking that I would not be able to come up with something as eloquent, the moment for me to say anything passed.

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

My self-doubt and feelings of incompetency were crippling me and leading to a self-fulfilling prophecy. My inability to stop comparing myself and actually say something was reinforcing the doubts I had about myself. As college students, it is so easy to compare yourself to other people, especially when you are surrounded by “accomplished” people who have managed to secure internships, get perfect grades, maintain their social lives, and appear to have their lives perfectly set up for success. It is easy to feel like you are not doing enough or that you are not smart enough to be where you are.

Honestly speaking, there is most likely always going to be someone smarter and wiser than you. Given this truth, there are only two ways you can go about it. You can either beat yourself up about it and throw yourself a pity party, or you can use that person as motivation to work harder. Instead of focusing on the ways that you are lacking in comparison to that person, focus on how you can improve yourself.

Acknowledge the thoughts that come into your mind. Replace those thoughts by making a list of the things you did that you are really proud of and truly do deserve praise for. Ask your friends for constructive feedback, even if it is criticism. Remember that it is okay and actually better for you to ask for help.

I still struggle with imposter syndrome, and it is so easy for these negative thoughts to overwhelm me. However, I decided that I did not want to be controlled by these thoughts any longer. It is so hard to have a positive mindset and recognize your accomplishments, but it is important that you recognize that everything you have done and continue to do has led you to where you are now. Stop talking your way out of places that you have earned a spot in.

Lauren is a fourth-year Psychology major with a minor in Asian Languages at UCLA from Studio City, California. In addition to writing as a feature writer for Her Campus at UCLA, she loves reading for leisure, playing with her dogs, and watching The Office.
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