Imposter Syndrome: you’re not a fraud and you deserve to be here

The summer is over, Freshers’ Week is here, time for another year of juggling lectures, projects, exams and booking cheap holidays before the end of Week 5.

For some of you, this will be your first year, the penultimate stage in the journey to independence.

You’ll be the annoying freshers, procrastinating with Buzzfeed quizzes in the Main Library instead of starting your first assignment. The rest of us will be glaring with frustration because we’ll be doing the same Buzzfeed quiz to procrastinate writing our theses.

But there is something else we have in common.

Imagine this scenario: A room full of people. You walk into this room. Why are you here? You know it’s because you earned a place in this room. You passed your exams with flying colours, your UCAS personal statement is an impressive and succinct 500-word original. You convinced the university that you want to be in this room.

Everything you achieved has led up to this moment. You deserve to be here. But an insidious, little voice asks you, “Why are you here?”

“You’re not as diligent as everyone else. You’re not as smart as the others.” “You won’t fit in because you’re… different.”

That little voice is normal. We’ve all heard it at some point in our lives and we’ve all dealt with it the same way: Ignore it and move on.

But for some of us, that little voice gets louder. Sometimes, it’s all we hear in that room.

Let’s embellish this scenario:

Everyone in that room has to sit exams in May. You know you can pass those exams, maybe get a first. That little voice interrupts, “Nah, you can’t. You take too many breaks to pray five times a day and you’re fasting for 10 hours daily. You can’t keep up.” You stay silent and move on because people don’t care who you worship.

Now there are sandwiches served in that room. You choose a vegetarian sandwich. It’s just mixed greens and spongey tofu with an imitation of satay peanut sauce. You assert that the food here doesn’t taste like home. That little voice exclaims, “If you don’t like it, maybe you shouldn’t be here.” You stay silent and move on because people don’t care where you come from.

People start talking. An academic ball is coming up. Everyone is talking about their plus-ones. Someone asks you if you’re still dating X. You’re not dating X. They’re just a close friend. You’re also not going to the academic ball this year because you have an assignment due that week.

That little voice utters, “You’re lucky you have an excuse. Imagine the looks if people found out that you’re not actually straight.” You say, “No,” and move on because people don’t really care who you date. At the same time, everyone’s working on their assignments. A deadline is approaching. You have a million things to do, but you also have to meet that deadline.

Suddenly, you start crying. You remind yourself that you have a mental disorder. Your therapist affirmed that breaking down is a common symptom of depression. That little voice remarks, “If you can’t handle the workload, maybe you should drop out.” You compose yourself and move on because people don’t care if you’re disabled.

Every day that we’re grinding for that sweet graduation certificate, we’ll be pretending that everything’s okay. We’ll wear different masks in every pocket of the room, hoping no one exposes us for the frauds we really are.

I see you.

You’re not a fraud. You deserve to be here. You have achieved so much to be this room. Everything will be okay. You will continue to achieve so much while you are in this room.

And even if everything isn’t okay, it’s not your fault. You still deserve to be here. Don’t listen to that little voice. It has no place in ruining your life.


Image Credit: Alan Levine via Flickr

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