A case of imposter syndrome

Jumping into my next chapter of life in college, I knew what I wanted and I was ready to get it. I was proud of my hard work and I was thrilled to be surrounded by folks of different experiences from around the world. Little did I know that I would rather be at home, where I felt comfortable, where I felt proud, where I didn't feel like an imposter.

Imposter syndrome is what they call it. By far, the definition I have most resonated with is from Mike Cannon-Brookes. For him, “...impostor syndrome is a feeling of being well, well out of your depth, yet already entrenched in the situation. Internally, you know you're not skilled enough, experienced enough or qualified enough to justify being there, yet you are there, and you have to figure a way out, because you can't just get out.” And this is exactly what I was feeling at UC Berkeley.

Being in an intellectually driven, fast paced environment, what I saw were very passionate and eager students ready to leap into a life of success. What I didn't see for quite some time was that I was not alone in my feelings. And what I did with those thoughts is best described by Mike Cannon-Brookes himself: turn it to a force for good. Now don’t get me wrong, imposter syndrome doesn’t just go away. It comes around for a visit no matter the amount of success. But what you do with it, is what counts.

Use that fear of looking like a nincompoop to motivate yourself. Question your ideas, your thoughts, but never yourself. I tried applying what Mike told me in the classroom. I decided, so what if people turn around to look at me when I raise my hand? They won’t remember that! The topic of conversation will surely move from “What a question Piumi asked!” to something else like “Did you listen to Taylor Swift’s new single?” Or they may even think “Thank god she asked that!” So, be aware of it, harness it, and find your success. Because at the end of the day, you may have just helped someone even if you felt silly.

Piumi Yaggahahewage is currently a success manager at Michael Sgro Leadership Coaching. She is a rising senior at UC Berkeley studying psychology. She is a Resident Assistant and a passionate mental health advocate.

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