“Imposter Syndrome.” It happens to everyone who puts themselves in situations that are uncomfortable: environments that push them to grow and inspire them to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Despite the feeling of not belonging, imposter syndrome actually means that you are right where you’re supposed to be: it means that you’re in a headspace that encourages you to constantly strive for more, and when recognized in a healthy manner, it can be the driving force that causes you to shoot for the stars and achieve successes that you never thought were possible.
Maybe that sounds cheesy to you; I know it did to me when I first heard the term. But as I made my way through college, I started to realize that everyone feels imposter syndrome at some point, and oftentimes it never goes away. Even the most accomplished professionals (world renowned biochemists, inspiring political activists, and innovative inventors or designers) tend to feel like their knowledge and skills are never enough to solve the problems they set out to accomplish. Now, that’s not to say that you’ll always feel dissatisfied with who you are and what skills you possess: infact, these professionals often simply get more comfortable with being uncomfortable. Instead of letting imposter syndrome be synonymous with a lack of confidence, those that have stayed motivated in the face of these feelings and have pushed past seemingly insurmountable challenges transform this feeling of inadequacy into a feeling of potential: they always seek to know more, to be more, and to do more.
This kind of motivation is so much easier said than done: in all honesty, I still struggle with it on a daily basis. However, what I have found to be most important in tackling this feeling is to not let it stop you from taking advantage of opportunities, and striving to accomplish the things that scare you most - even when that feeling of imposter syndrome is hard to ignore. Applying to that internship you’re not so confident you’ll get, completing that college application that you’re afraid to submit because of the fear of not getting in: whatever pushing past your limits means, do it. Who knows what could happen?
In high school, I was always told that Berkeley was a “reach” school. In college, I was told that the coveted internship I was after was “incredibly competitive.” In my job, I was constantly told what was attainable and not attainable. In all of those positions, I was afraid to take that leap of faith because so many things kept telling me it wouldn’t work out: I felt like I didn’t have the knowledge, the skills, and the determination to make it work. Yet, as I sit here with all of those experiences in the past, I feel so incredibly thankful that the high-school and college Sarah pushed past the feelings of inadequacy and took her shot anyway. In all of those moments, there was someone on the other end who saw me in a different light than I saw myself: that believed in qualities I had no idea I had, or had no confidence in. There was someone that saw my weaknesses as strengths, took a chance on me, or saw a potential in me that I couldn’t see at the time. From someone who knows how hard it is to feel inadequate, I can say that the most important part of pushing through that feeling is to believe that you can always be more, and that the person you are will never be done growing.
When it comes to college applications, take that chance. Apply to your reach schools, and shoot for the stars. Oftentimes, you can’t see the potential that you have that makes you perfectly capable of not only excelling in the position you’re so afraid of, but pushing yourself to become even more. Nothing says that you cannot defy statistics, and taking that leap of faith can be the first step in overcoming self-doubt. By trying again and again, you will succeed, and it will become easier to feel confident: even if you remain unsure of your current capabilities and knowledge, you’ll find confidence in your ability to find motivation in the most challenging and daunting moments.
Sarah is a Consultant on the Study Hall College Consulting Team. Sarah graduated from UC Berkeley in the Class of 2020 where she majored in Architecture and minored in Spanish Language & Literature. For more college application and essay tips, check out our Study Hall College Consulting website at: shcollegeconsulting.com.