Did my insecurities and anxieties begin at UCLA? No. Were they intensified by my incessant need to compare myself to others only to convince myself that I was somehow subpar in comparison? Yes.
High school was my comfort zone, however, life at the #1 Public University in the United States is a completely different experience. Throughout my first few weeks at UCLA, I've questioned my major, my life's purpose, and my abilities but my darkest moments have been spent questioning whether or not I truly belong at UCLA.
My own narrative is one of constant comparison and inferiority. As my classmates laugh off a lecture as a review, I condemn myself for not thinking the same way. I wonder why I don't have the expertise that they have, and why my successes feel small in comparison to theirs. It all feels like a front; deep down I know I've satisfied the level of accomplishment it takes to get to UCLA, but when my peers seem so far ahead of me academically, socially, and in all other "lys" it feels as if "faking it 'til I make it" has become a permanent means of survival.
This experience is not uncommon. First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes and Pauline Rose Clance in the 1970s, "impostor syndrome occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success." Students who suffer from impostor syndrome, "often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud."
I asked my friends about their experiences with impostor syndrome to confirm my suspicion that it's a condition suffered by many.
In a conversation in my lounge, my floormates admitted that their midterm scores indicated that their days of over-achieving are long gone-- at UCLA, they're now "average" or even "below average."
Their impostor syndrome is the barrier that keeps them from raising their hand in lecture, talking in a discussion, and truly having confidence in their own ideas.
This isn't limited to just academics though; my friend confessed to me that "ASB and Dance defined her in high school." After being rejected from both of the University equivalents, she questions if she was even a leader or a dancer in the first place.
Even in her third year, my friend still questions if she belongs at UCLA. Her experience is unique in that she fears her lack of stress and getting good grades is a false representation of her intelligence because she's in a traditionally "easy" major.
This article doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of all cases of impostor syndrome at UCLA, but what's for certain is that impostor syndrome is rooted in constantly comparing oneself to others. The easiest way to minimize its effects on your life? Accept it.
My floormate said it best: "Impostor syndrome never goes away. You just learn to stop comparing yourself to other people."
Going forward, I pledge to accept that people come from different walks of life than I do. I have a responsibility to learn, grow, cater to my weaknesses, and recognize my strengths; this is no way related to other people's standards. I will dismantle the "hush hush" culture that surrounds impostor syndrome and will always be there to remind not only myself but everyone around me that they belong at UCLA.
For us, it's not a matter of luck. We've earned our opportunities through nothing less than hard work and perseverance.