A few weeks ago I went to a luncheon on imposter syndrome, and it really struck a cord. My friends who are also in law school or continuing their education in some other way have mentioned feeling imposter syndrome before many times. Prior to applying to law school, I wasn’t overly aware of imposter syndrome. Sure, I had feelings of self-doubt, and sometimes felt like I was stumbling through things, and just getting lucky when something worked out. But lately, the feelings of self-doubt are more present. They’re more consistently floating through my mind, and some days I feel like maybe I’ve made a mistake in pursuing law, and I should be doing something different. However, I think there are ways to combat imposter syndrome that allow you to embrace insecurity while still pursuing your dreams.
I think a common pitfall of imposter syndrome is comparison. I end up comparing myself to so many people, even when I consciously remind myself that it’s unhealthy and that I shouldn’t. It’s so easy to end up comparing yourself to others. Whether its in the morning, while you’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, and seeing people whose lives seem too perfect, or whether it’s when you’re sitting in class, and everyone seems to be understanding while the information is passing through your head like Latin, or maybe you compare yourself to others while just walking around, seeing people who you perceive as skinnier or prettier than you. Whatever form comparison takes, you end up doing it. And sometimes it can just amplify any feelings you’re already having about not being good enough or feeling like you’re not actually supposed to be where you are.
I asked a few friends recently how they would define imposter syndrome. One texted me back and said, “It’s the feeling that you’re here on a fluke. Like you’re faking it and everyone else has their shit together and knows what they are doing.” And I actually sighed a sigh of relief because it was so on point, and made me feel like maybe other people are feeling it too. Another friend said, “You think you’re not really there by merit and everyone else is floating by and you’re out of place.” The worst part of imposter syndrome is feeling like you’re the only one feeling it, when in reality there are so many people who feel that way.
Academia was not something I was born into. Being naturally smart wasn’t something I considered myself to be when I was young. I struggled, I got tutors, I took reading comprehension classes, I took LSAT prep classes, and I studied hard because it wasn’t easy, not because I just enjoy studying so hard. Yes, I love academia, and I love learning, but sometimes I felt like links were missing when I was growing up, and it was hard for me to fully comprehend every little intricacy put in front of me. I was the first of 15 grandchildren to graduate a four year university in four years. When I learned to read, that’s all I did. I taught myself a lot, like how to use a computer. In my family, academia was encouraged, but wasn’t necessarily expected, especially not at the level I wanted to achieve it. So, I always felt a bit disadvantaged. I felt like maybe everyone else was getting something I wasn’t. But then I realized that that’s not true. We all have so much to offer, and we have so many things that make us individually strong. But, when we are in situations, like law school or college or our new job, it’s so easy to feel inadequate and feel like you’re an imposter in the situation. You’re playing dress up, but you’ll wake up tomorrow and this won’t be your life. When you get hired for that job, or get the promotion you’ve been working so hard for, don’t question it. I know, if you’re like me, you will, but TRY to force yourself to just accept it and be thankful.