Have you ever done really well on a task and then thought to yourself, "I really hope no one finds out I just faked my way through that!" Do you constantly invalidate your own successes because you don't want to seem arrogant even though you actually worked really hard to get there? Or do you spend hours procrastinating on something you could've finished ages ago because you wanted it to be perfect and didn't want to start it until you could finish the whole thing in one sitting?
Spending 8 hours on Twitter > spending 8 hours studying. media1.giphy.com
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a victim of impostor syndrome, a phenomenon where high achievers can't accept their successes. It's very common in competitive environments, such as in places of higher education. I've definitely experienced this, and I personally think the reason it's becoming more prevalent is because society values hard work more than mental health (which is a discussion for another day), which leads a lot of people to feel that nothing they do is enough. It makes sense that impostor syndrome is especially common for students in their first semester of college, because all of a sudden they're in a new setting, facing problems they're unfamiliar with but somehow getting through them, all while thinking they don't really belong.
Me coming back to my dorm after a hard day of class :( media0.giphy.com
My first few weeks of college were extremely stressful, due to the combination of adjusting to a new school, figuring out an entirely different way to study, having to be an actual adult for the first time, and forcing myself to go outside of my comfort zone. The whole time, I was meeting people who seemed to be so confident in themselves, people who were striving academically and socially, and people who had their lives planned out. It was hard to feel like my accomplishments compared to theirs. I honestly felt incompetent sometimes. But that was only one side to my story.
Studies have shown that minority students often find themselves experiencing impostor syndrome more than their peers because they feel that they have to "work twice as hard to be half as good." As an Asian American, I can't pretend to understand the circumstances that other minorities go through, nor can I disregard the fact that many Asians have unconscious prejudices against other ethnic groups, but that doesn't mean we don't experience discrimination. Asian Americans are seen as the "model minority" - a stereotype which discredits our efforts to "just being smart" and makes us seem like robots with no personalities. It's clear why I was struggling so much to accept that I had earned my spot in this school.
So, after reading this, maybe you've realized you also experience impostor syndrome. Now what? Well, the first step to overcoming those feelings of inadequacy is to recognize that you aren't faking anything at all. You're not a fraud. The next step is to realize you actually are good enough. Start accepting that you've worked hard to get to where you are, and just because you or something you do isn't perfect, doesn't mean it's bad. Change that "I'm going to fail!" to "I'm proud of myself for studying," or at least try. If you reframe your mindset even a little, you might feel less like an impostor and more like yourself. And if you don't, it's never shameful to seek professional help- especially when the mental health crisis for students is at an all time high.
If you take anything away from this soapbox, just know you're not faking it. Impostor syndrome is very real and very common. Admittedly, college made my impostor syndrome worse, but as I kept validating my successes, it got better and better.
To conclude - you don't have to fake it until you make it when you're not faking anything!
You're not a fraud! Yay! media3.giphy.com