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Why You Shouldn’t Let Self-Doubt Keep You From Celebrating Your Success

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May 25, 2016

In my first year of college, I applied to join my university’s honors program. Even though I was already attending my “reach” school, I had done well during my first year of college, so I applied. Much to everyone’s surprise, I got in.

As soon as my first honors program class started, I knew I was in over my head. All of the students around me were talking about their favorite philosophers and unbelievable internships. They tossed around words like “vociferous “ casually, and leaned back in their fancy leather chairs as if they were born to be in the honors program. You know the type.

This was my first philosophy class ever. The readings were dense and difficult. The paper prompts were daunting. The oral presentations were intimidating. While everyone else seemed to be floating along peacefully, I felt like I was swimming upstream. I was certain I was a fraud who did not belong in this class. I convinced myself that I only got into this program because I was lucky and likeable– certainly not because I was smart or qualified. In the end, I passed the class with an A and glowing writing reviews from my Professor. But I shrugged off the success, convincing myself that the Professor was just an easy grader and I was just lucky.

A few months later, I ran into one of the girls from the class. She was one of the ‘smart’ people.  She had perfectly quaffed hair and always looked like she had just left an important meeting. We made small talk and I mentioned we should get coffee sometime. She leaned in towards me nervously and said “Do you know how intimidating you are?”

I stuttered. Me? Intimidating? I’m the one who can barely remember how to spell my own name some days, let alone adequately prepare for grad school. Despite appearances, we were both feeling the same way—inadequate and under-qualified.

What I’m trying to get at here, is that we all struggle with ‘imposter syndrome’ from time to time. In the hyper-competitive college world, it is so easy to compare yourself to others and imagine that you’re falling behind. Whenever we are pushed out of our comfort zones, enter a world in which we feel we don’t belong, and do well in spite of our reservations, we attribute our successes to luck. We diminish our own accomplishments. We become convinced that we are not genuinely deserving of anything we have achieved.  

I’m here to tell you today that you are not an imposter. You are not a fraud. And you are far more than just “lucky.” You are talented, determined, and incredibly strong.

The social movements that you and I take part in seek to challenge the very systems of power and dominance that make us feel as if we are not worthy of success. In a culture in which women, people of color, queer folks, and people with disabilities are continually devalued and systematically oppressed, it should come as no surprise that we often feel powerless in our academics and our careers. In order to break this cycle, it is essential that we recognize our own power and revel in it.

Now, more than ever, young activists must own our successes with courage and pride. No, I am not telling you to ‘lean in.’ You’re already doing amazing things in the face of great obstacles. What I am calling upon you to do, is to give yourself credit for that. I know it’s difficult to throw out feelings of being unworthy or undeserving when the entire world around you consistently attempts to limit you– but recognizing your own accomplishments and feeling pride in them will bring so much richness and happiness into your life.

If I have learned anything during my time here at URGE, it’s that young people are unstoppable. I have learned that even when you feel like you’re failing, there’s an entire community of activists that will lift you up, support you, and trust in your abilities. I have found that community here in the URGE office, and I hope you have found that in your URGE chapter, too.  This summer, I will be trying to take my own advice and become more confident in my achievements. Learning to love and appreciate myself is a journey, but a journey that I am more than willing to take.

 

Written by Lauren Courtney

Lauren is a junior at George Washington University majoring in Political Science and Women’s Studies. She is President of the GW Feminist Student Union, a proud coffee enthusiast, and an RBG fangirl. Since surviving her first honors program class, Lauren has happily declared a minor in Philosophy.

 

Image by Anna Gutermuth via Flickr

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