Let’s talk about imposter syndrome

By Ava Dunwoody | Arts & Life Editor

One of the things I have noticed most about growing up is that even though I am getting older and taking on more responsibility, a part of me will always feel like I don’t know what I am doing. And because I feel a little lost sometimes, I start to tell myself that I am underqualified or am not the right person for the job. I doubt myself. I feel like an imposter.

“Everyone else knows what they are doing,” I tell myself. “If they really knew how little you know, they wouldn’t have hired you. Other people would be better at this than you. You’re taking away the job from someone who truly deserves it.”

All of these thoughts run through my head when I am feeling overwhelmed or when I mess up.

When I was hired as the Arts & Life Editor for the Baylor Lariat, I was shocked and thrilled that such a big position was being given to me. But then people had to keep helping me and telling me what to do when I felt like I should have just known. I made my first mistake and missed a typo that printed on the front page of my section. I felt like I was treading rough waters trying to figure it out and everybody else was smooth sailing.

Again I felt like this when I taught my first class for my education major. Here I was, a meager 19-year-old who had never executed a lesson plan, teaching a class full of 22-year-old seniors who had taught in real classrooms for years. I was like a toddler trying on my mom’s high heels — and they were not comfortable.

I was sitting in the newsroom the other day, and I expressed how I was feeling to the other staff members as we worked to meet our print night deadlines.

“Yeah, the imposter syndrome with this job is real,” someone said back to me.

I remember looking at them, shocked. Other people felt like this too? All of these people who look so put together also get confused about what’s going on? I’m not the only one who feels underqualified?

That’s what happens, I think, when we grow up, especially for those of us in college. We are in that awkward age where we still feel like teenagers but are given full-on adult responsibilities. And there are all sorts of people in different ages and stages of life in my classes; one of my friends has a husband and two kids and another has a fear of boys and two sorority meetings next week.

It makes sense that I sometimes don’t know what I’m doing. If I did, I wouldn’t need to be going to college right now. I am here because I still have a lot to learn. Those senior education majors once had to teach a class full of students older than them, and look at them now. In the same way I look at other people and think they have it all together, someone else might look at me and think the same thing.

I have to remember that I don’t have to be perfect to be qualified for a job or a role in my life. Sure, there might always be someone who can do something better than you or knows more than you, but why stress about that? You were the one who got the job. Someone looked at you and believed in you and saw that you were qualified. Now it’s your turn.

It’s okay to still be learning — in fact, I think people even outside of college are still learning. It’s okay to strive to be better and be upset when you take a step back or feel a bit lost. But what isn’t okay is thinking the only reason you feel that way is because you aren’t enough. You aren’t an imposter. You aren’t in the wrong place. You are learning, and that is a wonderful thing.