What imposter syndrome looks like
I flinched a little while my trembling hands were about to touch my diploma, as a tiny voice in my head asked: “Why are you here?”
I frequently ask that same question to myself, but I am scared that the universe would disagree because it knows that “frequently” is an understatement.
As a child, I was really confident. During my elementary years, I can remember vividly how people from my school would encourage me to join almost all of the competitions inside and outside the institution. From spelling bees, science tournaments, to dancing and cooking competitions. People saw potential in me. But it was in high school when things took a turn—I started to lose confidence in myself and I developed a toxic obsession with questioning my abilities and accomplishments.
My seniors and teachers would still push me to be in the student council and to join every competition—most of them I won, but some of them I refused to join because I felt undeserving. I believed that there were other students way more talented and smarter than me; they were more worthy of all the opportunities, and it just so happened that I was in their way. I know deep inside that if they were given the chance, they could do better than me. They could have written a more striking article, delivered a more moving speech, or executed a more precise and graceful choreography.
College came, and every day felt as if I could not escape a never-ending wave of pressure and insecurity. During this time, I realized one prominent thing about me: I fear failure so much that I get so afraid of stepping foot on anything grand. I craved perfection and success, but my crippling fear craved me even more. I worked way too hard, slept infrequently, and beat myself up whenever I failed to meet the impossible standards I set for myself.
While studying, I did not want to disappoint my family, but for some reason, I also prepared them for what may happen. I never told them that I was a consistent dean’s lister because I believe it was just pure luck. I refused to celebrate those small wins I had during college because I knew I could have done so much better. Even up to my graduation, I did not tell anyone, even my family, that I was finishing as our batch cum laude. I was scared of having to meet higher expectations and being questioned if I deserved that achievement.
These thoughts ran free in my mind and rained heavily on my success. Accepting my medal and diploma, as well as receiving congratulatory messages, became an anxiety trigger.
Right now, I work as a full-time writer. I belong to a production team; hence, I work with very creative people—well-known photographers, videographers, graphic designers, writers, and editors. All of them are so good and passionate about what they do, and each day, I try not to beat myself up, but it is hard not to when you feel like it was a mistake that you were on the team. Most days I will just finish what I am tasked to do, but some days, especially when I get recognized, guilt will creep in. I feel like I am robbing someone of this exceptional opportunity to work with great, talented people. Although I love working with them, I cannot help but feel like a fraud.
This is what living with imposter syndrome looks like. It is a constant battle between reality and that voice in your head, which does not get tired of questioning and doubting all your strengths, and making you feel like you will never be good enough.
However, through time, I have learned how to deal with it with the help of people who always leave an extra headspace for my thoughts.
I realized that most of us have felt this way at some point in our lives, and I found peace in knowing that I was not alone. I learned how to view it from a different perspective and decided to be kind to myself. I fed myself helpful thoughts such as it is okay to doubt myself at times, but it is never okay to invalidate my efforts and achievements. I am not a fraud, and I will never be, for failing to achieve perfection and for not knowing everything in the world.
So to everyone who is with me on this, it may not be easy, but it is high time to stop being hard on ourselves and start acknowledging our strengths. We have worked hard to get to where we are, so there is nothing wrong with allowing yourself to be proud.
It is hard to drop fears and doubts all at once, but we always have power over them. These things are normal, but letting them control your actions and hinder your success is not.
So the next time that little voice in your head visits you again, instead of being stunned when it asks you why you are here, answer it back with: “Because I can.”
Leyana Seacor, 23, is a writer by day, freelancer by night, and a mental health advocate for life.
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