It’s been a little more than a month since I graduated. I’m still incredibly grateful that the whole ceremony went smoothly, and that I can look back at the day happily. Everything seemed to fall into place— our wonderful Mass, the songs we composed and sang, and the thrill of seeing some of my best friends receive well-deserved awards. However, to be perfectly honest, as I was in my seat getting ready to deliver what were probably the most important words I had ever written, I had a few moments of overwhelming uncertainty. All of the negative thoughts that had been gnawing at me leading up to this day suddenly returned on full blast. I didn’t know what to do about it, except breathe and push them aside for later.
I can’t tell you exactly what those voices were saying, but it was something along the lines of: Congratulations on fooling everybody. Everyone who hears you do this is going to think that you’re so much smarter and nicer than you actually are. Only you could turn a great opportunity like this into another chance to fake it.
Don’t worry! Since then, I’ve mostly gotten over this train of thought and I’m more at peace with what I was able to achieve. But because of this experience, my graduation day became a sort of zoomed-in version of my ongoing journey with something called impostor syndrome. More and more articles are being released about this phenomenon (I’ve included a few links at the end!), but I’m taking this time to talk about my personal experience in the hopes that some of you can recognize your own thoughts and finally give them a name.
For me, senior year was full of opportunities for me to go the extra mile, deepen my love for art and writing, and finally do things I could say that I was proud of. Of course, as with anything else, I’m not 100% satisfied with everything I did as a senior. But one thing I do know is that, in retrospect, I exceeded even my own expectations. I was able to keep my grades up, give advice to friends in younger batches, perform my poetry for the very first time (yay!), and connect with people through music.
Behind all of these achievements was a difficult lesson that I absolutely needed to learn and take to heart: that it’s okay to say I did well, and to see good things as truly good— not just products of luck, or the trust that other people invest in me. I didn’t finish Grade 12 simply because I got lucky, or because my adviser believed in me so much, or I tricked my classmates into thinking I was competent. Somewhere along the way, I put in the work that was needed to push me forward.
Impostor syndrome takes every chance it can to whisper the opposite in your ear.
It’s the reason you might get that sinking feeling whenever someone compliments you. It’s why you can’t help looking back at your old work and thinking, “gosh, I didn’t do my best there.” It’s the fear that one day, everyone around you is going to realize that you’ve fooled them into thinking good things about you.
To be clear— it’s good to want to be deserving of the praise and recognition you receive, it’s good to make sure that what you do meets certain standards, and it’s good to revisit your past actions to see what you could have done better. However, as we all know, anything can turn bad if it is overextended. Impostor syndrome is what happens when you find yourself getting too caught up with the concepts of perfection and achievement and external recognition.
If you can relate to what I’ve shared in this article, know that almost everyone feels a similar way at one point in their lives or another. So, what can you do to fight it? Start with the little things. When you receive praise, don’t automatically discount yourself (for example: “OMG noooo it wasn’t that good TBH”). Instead, thank that person genuinely and internalize their kind words. Adding onto this, another anti-impostor syndrome measure you can do is to start congratulating yourself on a job well done. Celebrate your achievements and the good things they’ve brought into the world. The world isn’t gonna end just because you took some time to be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
To whoever is reading this, you are amazing! It’s not easy being you. Think about that for a second. You’re not a fraud, and you’re not a disappointment either. As long as you’re putting in the effort to be genuine and work hard, guess what? You have nothing to worry about.
To read up on the different forms impostor syndrome can take: https://www.themuse.com/advice/5-different-types-of-imposter-syndrome-and-5-ways-to-battle-each-one
To get an idea of how much you actually come across impostor syndrome in your daily life: