Impostor Syndrome: Am I in the right place?

If Belka and Strelka can orbit the earth, then you can do whatever you’re feeling uncertain about. Photo courtesy of The New Daily.

AUDREY DAVENPORT | OPINION COLUMNIST | amdavenp@butler.edu

Let me take you back to my first day of classes freshman year. I walked to my French class, schedule on my phone, feeling confident. I strolled into Jordan Hall and took my time getting to my class — like I said, I was confident.

I took a seat and the professor handed out the syllabus. I glanced down at it and it said something along the lines of “Business 400.” I whipped my head around and noticed the old, seasoned faces around me. It was a class full of seniors, and I was the impostor.

I sat in that class for the full 50 minutes. I nodded along when others did, shuffled papers for no apparent reason, and rushed out of the room, throwing the 400-level syllabus in the recycling as I left. 

I can’t imagine that I looked like I was supposed to be there. As if my freshman year lanyard wasn’t enough, I probably looked terrified, worrying that I would be called on or worse, found out. 

I felt like a fish out of water, not at all comfortable with where I was or what I was doing. I had felt impostor syndrome before, but college is a different ballgame.

While I don’t feel like that all the time, there are moments where I still feel like I am in a room where I do not belong. Impostor syndrome is something that creeps into my mind every once in a while. It is the idea that you feel unqualified or undeserving of where you are in your life, and merely the mastermind behind a clever ruse, fooling everyone that you meet.  

It is incredibly difficult for me to admit that I don’t know what I’m doing sometimes. It’s like admitting defeat or fraudulence. Much like having to ‘fess up to being the one who didn’t change the toilet paper roll after you acted like you didn’t even know it was empty. 

One of my mom’s favorite phrases is “fake it ‘til you make it.” She chanted it as she dropped me off at ResCo my freshman year. And she’s reminded me when I’ve called her anxious about presentations, along with a host of other times when I’ve doubted myself or my capabilities.

Everyone has different ways of defeating impostor syndrome, and if you have ever experienced it then I’m sure that you have your own way. For me, the key to beating impostor syndrome really is to fake it and hope that my internal dialogue matches the external one. Honestly, it usually works.

The power of positive self-talk is not to be ignored. You can give yourself a pep-talk in the mirror in the morning, walking to class or in the bathrooms of Jordan Hall. That last one might get you a few weird looks, but do what you gotta do. 

It is important to remember that you are more than your internal doubts. I’m betting that Thomas Jefferson didn’t think he was qualified when he was writing the Declaration of Independence. Or that the first dogs to orbit the Earth, Belka and Strelka, thought they were suited for the job. But if Belka and Strelka can do it, you can too.

I have to constantly remind myself that I am at college to learn. Nothing is going to be perfect on the first go-around and there is always room for growth — but you’re never going to grow if you don’t push yourself out of your comfort zone and into a space where you feel a little bit like an impostor.

Impostor syndrome might not be something that goes away completely, but just knowing it’s there can help you find effective ways to combat it.

So when you find yourself looking around a classroom or a meeting and feel like everyone else is more confident, more prepared or more comfortable, remind yourself that you’re also there for a reason and future you would tell you to shoot your shot.

It’s also entirely possible that no one else in the room knows what’s going on either, so if all else fails, you’ve got that. 

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