(Photo courtesy of Pablo Stanley ) Imposter syndrome, also called perceived fraudulence, involves feelings of self-doubt and personal incompetence that persist despite your education, experience, and accomplishments. To counter these feelings, you might end up working harder and holding yourself to ever higher standards.
Imposter syndrome is all too common among college students, especially those who were previously high achieving in high school. Imposter syndrome is the feeling of self-doubt regarding the accomplishments that one has had or the accolades they have received.
Many college students were among the highest achieving in their significantly smaller home school districts. I was the salutatorian of my high school class, with the second highest GPA, and teachers constantly remarking my future potential. However, after being rejected from several of my top choice colleges, I began to doubt myself.
This self-doubt began to resonate even further as I entered college itself. At the risk of sounding too prideful about the wonderful students I went to high school with, I had never been surrounded by so many people who challenged my intellect. This issue manifested through my initial trajectory through Mechanical Engineering major, which I eventually switched out of to the English department.
In high school, I was at a technical school, thriving in the Engineering shop program. I consistently placed in the top tier of my class, doing really well with all of my lessons. However, after struggling with introductory college level engineering, chemistry, and physics, I doubted myself too much to continue.
This did not become the sole reason I switched out of Engineering, as I had truly felt I found my passion in writing. However, I cannot discount this as a part of my decision. Continually throughout that semester, I felt like I was disappointing myself, failing to meet my full potential, and letting down the people who were close to me that I have known my entire life.
Throughout the Covid shutdowns, I took a step back from school for self-reflection. This time helped me significantly with rationalizing the entirely new path my life has taken. I had realized both through this self-reflection and through therapy that my feeling of imposter syndrome was unneeded.
My achievements of the past are still valid, regardless of where I stand in the present. And it was me who managed to earn salutatorian: it was not just handed to me. The other students I attended high school with were smart and competitive, meaning I did not sail to this point.
One of the most important personal developments in attempting to get to this point of escaping my imposter syndrome was removing myself from the expectations of others. I had felt that since I did overperform in high school, a comparative disappointment from past performance felt like I was letting people down.
However, this is my life. Even if some other people are let down from my relative downscale in accomplishments, that cannot impact how I feel about myself. At the end of the day, the only person whose opinion matters about me is mine. As long as I am making decisions to make myself happy, being the person I want to be, and performing academically to the best of my ability, that is enough for me. This is how I overcame imposter syndrome, and I hope other students struggling similarly can find solace in this story.