Follow Your Own Path
Just to jump right in, lately, I've been trying to be more open and honest on here. So, here it goes:
As most of you might know, I've been in grad school in D.C. for journalism. It's been an exciting, fun and challenging time to say the least. As someone who's always loved writing, I figured the course load would be hard but enjoyable and that I would be in classes with like-minded peers.
And while both of those things are true, there was one thing I didn't account for and that's my old lifelong friend: Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is defined as "the persistent inability to believe that one's success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one's own efforts or skills." A study listed by Forbes showed 1 in 3 Americans has Imposter Syndrome. I'm sure some of you reading this blog right now experience or have experienced it.
As for me, I've known Imposter Syndrome for a long time.
Typically, it kicks in when something I've worked on works out for good, such as an A on a final paper in undergrad, successfully filing people's taxes at work, or even just passing my driver's test when I was in high school. My problem is that I can't accept these good results as an indicator of my own hard work- I always think they were due to a fluke or good luck.
And when things I try don't work out, my anxiety-addled brain uses the failures as proof that that's true.
That my past success was just good luck.
That I'm an imposter.
Now that I'm in grad school for journalism, these old fears of mine have slithered right back in as if they've never left. Assignments I've passed make me hold my breath, like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. Positive notes on papers make me think the professor is just being nice (sometimes I think they're being pitying but that's just my internalization).
A big one is comparing myself to my peers who have more experience in our field than I do. When I hear the well-thought out plans everyone else seems to have for their futures and their confidence on assignments, I feel like I'm falling behind somehow. That because of different ideas, interests, or experience levels, I'm only playing at being in grad school while they're all "really doing it".
When you see it written out like that, it seems kind of ridiculous.
For myself and the others who struggle with Imposter Syndrome, I've realized some things and have some advice:
First and foremost, remember that everyone is different. Just because Person A reached their goal one way and Person B did it another way, it doesn't mean that one way is better than the other. Our differences in personalities, talents, hobbies, etc is what makes the world interesting. It's what makes you interesting. So it's okay to do things your way.
If it works, it works.
The second thing is to believe that you are where you are because of your hard work. Despite what the fairytales may tell us, most people get where they are not by happy accidents or magic, but by a strong drive and motivation. Some of the most successful experts in their field struggle with Imposter Syndrome, which can seem wild to people on the outside. But that's because it's too easy for us to focus on our flaws and disqualifications rather than our qualifications.
Which brings me to my next point: allow yourself the grace and space to make mistakes. As I always say: we're human, we screw up. Unless you're a dog who's somehow mastered using the internet, I think it's safe to guess everyone reading this is a human. Which means what? Right, that you're not perfect. But that's okay!
Nobody is perfect. And nobody expects you to be! (And if someone is expecting you to be perfect, drop them because that's toxic.)
No matter how good at a job or class or sport we are, imposter syndrome or not, we're still going to mess up and make mistakes. That's just a part of life. But your screwups don't negate the qualities and skills you have. It just means you're still learning and growing, which is great!
I mean life would be pretty boring if we weren't always still learning and making mistakes.
Most importantly though, when Imposter Syndrome hits, try to remember this: what you do for a talent or a career doesn't define you.
It doesn't determine if you're good or not.
And it certainly doesn't determine if you're successful or loved.
You are way more special than a mere job or hobby. You are worthy and deserving of love-- and anxiety, Imposter Syndrome, a bad grade or whatever won't change that.
Just be you, because you're amazing.
Isaiah 41:9 "I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you... I have chosen you and not rejected you."