Thoughts on imposter syndrome

Hi all,

We’re halfway through the first quarter of the new academic year. Things at UWB seem to be going okay in terms of people wearing masks and respecting the policies in place, and, surprisingly to me, we haven’t had any major outbreaks! Hoorah for small comforts. πŸ™‚

I think there’s still a lot of uncertainty and a general numbness going on, though, and I’m not sure what it is other than things just being rona weird… but it seems also that a lot of students (and people in general who aren’t students) are just lacking confidence, not sure where to start with their (new) workload. There’s a feeling that whatever you do might not be that good so it’s hard to find motivation. Then you fall behind, and things just sort of spiral.

Do you know what imposter syndrome is? Basically, it’s the feeling that somehow you got to a place where you don’t really belong… that the others there are there because they’re super capable and that you somehow cajoled your way in or you got in by mistake or whatever… that your work just isn’t up to snuff when you compare yourself to others. It’s really hard to be motivated if you feel this way.

Almost everyone feels this way at least some of the time! People who don’t have some serious vanity issues or don’t really engage in self-reflection, imho! It’s okay to feel this way; it means you’re thinking about yourself and your place in the world. We need more people doing that!

But feeling like you don’t belong is a problem because the truth is that it likely isn’t true.

My best way to think about it is maybe only possible if you’ve lived a while so I realize that what I say might not be meaningful to you until years later… To me, it’s ridiculous to compare yourself to others and take away from that that you’re less than. I mean, at this moment, okay, someone might know more than you or is capable of doing something better… but you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, and right now is a tiny blip along that timeline. All you have to do today is focus on being better than you were yesterday. Improving can take time, sure… but your eventual plateau might actually be higher than someone who is more capable than you now.

I find it very useful to think bigger. Focus on why you want to improve over a lifetime rather than trying to perform to some standard at this very moment. Find a calling that you can aspire to that sustains you. For me, that’s helping people. I try my best to do that, and it doesn’t matter if I’m not as good as someone else because every positive from anyone counts. Then it becomes about us uplifting each other collectively rather than individuals competing against each other. The world is so screwed up right now because of this stupid competition.

When you realize that, basically, everyone around you is feeling imposter syndrome, too, you also realize that you’re all being mum out of intimidation for no good reason. One of the biggest regrets I have, when I look back at my college experience, is not reaching out and making more friends than I did, mostly because I felt like everyone around me was smarter, or maybe not smarter but more “with it.” And realizing now that that simply wasn’t true, I really wish we’d gotten to know each other as whole humans more so than we did. 

Anyway, I hope this makes sense… πŸ™‚

As always, I’m here for you if you need.

love,mark | t: @mcdanger | m: markdangerchen | d: mcdanger#6611

P.S. Here’s a hot tip in case you didn’t know: get a credit card and start using it and paying the balance off each month so you don’t get charged interest. Do that for a while so that in a year or so you have good credit and can do stuff like get a loan or rent an apartment.

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