Every time of transition in my life has come with feelings of imposter syndrome, and that everyone around me is somehow smarter, more successful, and simply more ‘put-together’ than me. This was definitely true in my first-year of university. I found myself constantly comparing my grades, competition results, and summer plans to my peers, and was often left feeling unfulfilled. I believe that that’s something that inevitably happens when you put hundreds of kids who were high-achievers in high school in one program.
I think that everyone has different ways of coping with that feeling, some more common than others.
Today I’m going to try my best at unpacking that!
#1: No matter what job, position, or grade you get, you’ll probably never feel like you have your life together (and that’s ok!)
One of the first coping mechanisms I turned to was trying to identify people that I looked up to, making a list of their achievements, and telling myself that I would feel like I had my shit together when I had those same achievements. This is definitely one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done (and admittingly continue to do). First of all, I believe that this leads to a tunnel-visioned perspective of success that convinces people that they will only be happy if they check off an arbitrary, never-ending check-list of achievements. Personally, this left me feeling hugely fulfilled because I found that it was not only impossible to check off every achievement because it’s impossible to win everything. Furthermore, even when I did ‘check off’ certain achievements I realized that I still felt exactly the same.
#2: Unpacking ‘keen’ shaming, and putting people into boxes
When confronted with the sheer diversity of the people around me, I think that another coping mechanism I turned to was trying to put people into boxes, then subsequently labeling people more “keen” than me as annoying as a last ditch defense mechanism. In retrospect, this definitely came from a place of jealousy. It’s also one of the stupidest things that I’ve done this year. First of all, the preconceptions I had about people often led me to be close-minded about making genuine connections with people who were “different” from me. Second of all, it definitely also stunted my personal growth and instilled a self-conceived “cap” on the goals I thought I was capable of achieving.
#3: There will always be people around you who do better than you (and that’s actually amazing news!)
Whether people choose to admit it or not, seeing the people around you succeed creates feelings of insecurity and jealousy. However, I think that a much more optimistic perspective is that you literally become the people that you are surrounded by. Thus, in some way or another, other people’s achievements are yours too : )
P.S: I literally started a blog asking successful people whether they feel like they have their lives together. The answer thus far has always been no (with zero hesitation).