Friday, November 22, 2013

Impostor Syndrome

It's days like today when I question every decision I've ever made.  I'm sick, I'm tired, I'm overworked, and getting kind of sad.  I got so stressed that I proceeded to throw up the coffee-Dayquil cocktail that was the entire contents of my stomach.  I've been up since 8, gave a presentation, went to lab, am currently waiting to go fail a midterm, and then am going to stay up all night writing a paper due at midnight that I haven't started yet.
In short, I'm a wreck.
We all are.  Going through this school is the most demoralizing thing I have ever done.  No matter how hard I study I still feel like a failure when all is said and done.  You've probably guessed from the title of the blog that this is not a rare feeling for me.  Just when I think I have things figured out, I get slammed with a C- on an exam I thought I aced.  Gone are the days when I could walk out of an exam and know exactly how well I did.  Now I sit patiently for a 38% wondering if the average was a 60% or a 25% (both have happened).  
No matter what you can't win.  You either sacrifice all of your happiness, or sacrifice some of it and throw your grades down the toilet.
No matter what you're never as good as they think you are.
There's actually a phrase for this which I just learned recently: impostor syndrome. This is the idea that you are pretending to be the person people think you are, when really you're not as good as that.  I think we each have it to some extent, but I think it's pretty contagious here at MIT.  We often think we're stupid, falling behind or just not good enough  In reality it's quite the opposite, but when you're in an environment consisting of the "best of the best", of course a hierarchy will develop.  It's only natural that some people are "better" than others.  There are too many people in the world for it to not be that way.  Being in an environment where you're constantly judged and graded is incredibly difficult.  It begins to take a toll physically and emotionally and sometimes you'll feel like the lowest of the low.
This is when we need to take a step back.  We need to ask, "am I really dumb? Or is it just because I'm constantly in stressful, difficult situations?"  College is the worst because even when you don't have midterms, everyday is a test.  It's a test of endurance, a test of nerve, and ultimately a test of will.  I've thought about quitting countless times.  I question why I'm here, what it's worth, and whether or not I even like this anymore.  I've realized you can't question it.  Anything worth getting is going to suck along the way.  The only way to make it suck less is to step back, take a breath, and realize you're not the bottom of the bottom. You're not doing even half that bad, and maybe should even give yourself more credit than just bottom of the top.

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