Normally, I would tell you how to two tone heels or how to style this mod dress. Instead I’m going to tell who a little bit about who I am, how my struggle of defining my identity impacted me growing up, and my experiences of imposter syndrome.
Though I’m thankful for the cultures that make me who I am, balancing being Filipino and American drove me to constantly question my identity and my idea of success. At home, I was Filipino. Growing up my parents used to denounce that I was an American. They insisted that even though
I was growing up in America, I was Filipino and we lived differently.
When I walked outside of my door, I was American and I left being Filipino behind. Like many high
school students, I just wanted to fit in. So with my high school girlfriends, we talked about school dances, shopping, boys, Twilight, and it would stop at that. Except for a select few friends, none of my
friends knew the difficulties and the adversityI faced trying to fit into two cultures.
Growing up, I felt like I wasn’t Filipino enough and I also wasn’t American enough. Not ever feeling enough drove me to feel like I had to constantly prove myself. I felt like I needed to show that I could belong to the communities I felt like didn’t completely accept me.
This is how I truly felt on the inside. And on the outside, my friends, my teachers, and my high school recognized me as an over achiever.
Even as I planned school dances, assemblies, graduated with a 3.9 GPA, and earned 12 varsity letters by the end of high school, I still felt like I was not enough. I feared that people would find out that I truly didn’t belong. And my chronic self-doubt ballooned during college.
What was this fear, self-doubt, and over compensating to prove myself called?
It’s called imposter syndrome:
According to Harvard Business Review, “Imposter syndrome can be defined as a
collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success”.
High achieving people who experience imposter syndrome suffer from chronic self- doubt and are unable to recognize their successes.
After watching Dena Simmons TED Talk “How students of color confront imposter syndrome”, I realized that the chronic self-doubt I’ve battled with is actually thing. I recognize now that my question of identity drove me to chronic self-doubt. I realize now that imposter syndrome began as
early as middle school and has carried with me to my adult life.
The height of my imposter syndrome happened in college.
I came into college knowing I would finance my degree with
student loans so I knew I would pick a degree that would give me a return on my
investment. I walked in and knew I had to major in business. This goal tormented me, put incredible
stress on me, and pushed me to my limits.
To begin with, I thought I wasn’t going to be admitted to the business school. So when I
found out I was admitted to the business school, I jumped for joy.
And then I asked myself why would they let me in if my GPA was only a
3.11 and the average GPA to be admitted was a 3.54?
Never mind that I already had completed an internship as a sophomore coming in.
Never mind that I was in a professional business fraternity, was a part of the Victoria’s Secret PINK team, and that I had volunteered for the first TEDxUofW conference at UW.
Never mind that I was a part of UW Leaders and been admitted into the INROADS program.
How could the business school let me in with a 3.11 GPA? I wondered if I was just lucky to be admitted.
My Fears: After I was admitted to the business school, I feared they would find out how dumb I was and that I would be kicked out. My fear around my business school classes was paralyzing.
In fact, I was convinced that I was going to fail managerial accounting. I went into my accounting professor’s office hours and broke down and told her I was going to fail. She listened to me, let me cry, and assured me that I wasn’t going to fail. And though I came in under the curve, I didn’t fail.
I battled my feelings of self-doubt all through college. I didn’t allow myself to even consider more of the technical degrees in business – like finance or information systems. If it weren’t for a supportive group of friends I made in the business school, I would have floundered through classes and may not have even applied to the business school.
Over compensating: As I battled my self-doubt through college, I exceeded in other avenues in school to over compensate and prove to myself and everyone around me that I belonged to the business school. I ended up leading the Victoria’s Secret PINK team my junior and senior year. I co-organized TEDxUofW – I interviewed 50+ applicants to create the leadership team and committees, grew our original four sponsors to 16, and lead the registration team to review the applications and admit 100 attendees. I also served as on the fundraising committee of Alpha Kappa Psi –my professional business fraternity.
Again on the outside, people probably saw me as an over achiever. But on the inside, I battled my feelings of self-doubt and questioned why I was in the business school. I worked to look like I had it together when I was just covering up my true feelings.
Is it really that bad? You may be thinking that imposter syndrome may not be so bad since it drove me to over achieve. But even though I over achieved, I didn’t feel like good about myself. I didn’t feel good
enough. I worried that people would realize how inept I was – that I was just a fraud. I battled with
my self-esteem all throughout college when I could have let myself recognize my accomplishments.
Now that I’m aware of imposter syndrome and recognize that many other people also experience this, I know now to not discount my value and hard work. For the last month or so, I’ve been trying to change the way I think. Here are a few things I’m working on:
1. Accept that I’ve had some role in my success –
Yes I was extended many opportunities other people may not have been extended and I also worked to get to where I am. I have to remind myself that I recognized my opportunities and maximized my efforts taking those opportunities.
2. Recognize my imposter feelings when they emerge
Whether its blogging or my career, I’m going to try to be aware of my self-doubt and the pressure I put on myself.
3. Talk about my feelings
When I first learned about imposter syndrome, I went to my mentor and asked if she knew what imposter syndrome was or if she had ever faced it. She confided in me that she battled with chronic self-doubt all throughout her career, especially after she was promoted into an executive role. I couldn’t believe that one of the women I look up to also experienced the same feelings as I did. We both felt so much better after acknowledging and validating that our feelings and experiences are real and we can allow ourselves to recognize our accomplishments.
So maybe you previously thought I look liked I had it together. It’s easy to look like that when I’ve styled my hair, done my make up, and posed for the camera. But the truth is I’ve battled with imposter syndrome at school, in blogging, and in my career.
Have you ever faced these feelings of chronic self-doubt or feeling like a fraud?
If you want to learn more about imposter syndrome, here are some articles I recommend:
Huffington Post: Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Sabotage Your Career
Harvard Business Review: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Start Up Bros: 21 Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
Thank you for reading!
Photos: Holly Phan
This is a good reading about Identity. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for sharing your story, Emma! I think a lot of people can relate to the journey that you shared. Going into college, I felt a lot of the same things as you did. I can't imagine what it would be like to grow up in today's modern age, constantly being connected to social media and seeing highlight reels from everyone and trying to compare ourselves in that realm. I hope that this piece finds its way to other generations who may be going through similar thoughts and see how you persisted and have become such a beauty, both inside and out, over the years.
Emma! This was such a great read! It honestly brought tears to my eyes because I resonated with it just that much. I grew up in a Pakistani-American household and had the same feelings as you. I love my Pakistani culture, but I also love fitting in and my American culture. It's hard to feel like you're fully one culture when you're a little bit of both. I'm at UW right now and can honestly say I've spread myself so thin trying to prove myself to other but mostly to myself about who I am and what I can do. I LOVED this read and hope you write more similar posts because I enjoy them so much! You're awesome and serious goals!
Thanks for sharing your story. After reading this I realized that I too suffer from Imposter Syndrome. I can totally relate to many of the things you mentioned. On a different note, I love your outfit!