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 adversity
I 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
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
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
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