If You're a Student Struggling With Impostor Syndrome, Try This

When I first entered the University of California-Riverside (UCR), I was filled with excitement and eagerness. I was ready to make my years at UCR the best I could make them. I made plans to join the Latino Union, the Associated Students of University of California-Riverside (ASUCR), College Democrats and so much more. However, I was not prepared to experience something my fellow first-generation students from institutions across the country tend to experience, the “Impostor Syndrome.”

Feeling Inadequate

The first time I experienced this feeling of not being able to internalize my success because I felt undeserving, was when I was promoted to a higher position in my job in Riverside. I worked for fours months in an after-school program in Moreno Valley Unified School District, working with younger children and helping them improve their math and literacy skills. After working as hard as possible, my supervisor recommended me for a job as a district elementary school specialist. Of course, I was extremely eager and excited because I love helping first and second-graders. My first day I was overwhelmed with happiness to meet the 12 first- and second-graders I was going to work with one-on-one to improve their math skills. As I was going to meet my students, the staff coordinator introduced me to my team. I quickly noticed that I was roughly 10 years younger than my coworkers. As one coworker took me to the classroom that I was going to use, I felt a sense of belittlement in their voice. My coworkers quickly noted that they were startled they hired someone so young who has been working with kids for a limited time. In the following weeks of my job, I noticed I was spoken to as if I was a child instead of a coworker. Whenever those instances would occur, I would have sudden feelings of unworthiness. I would feel like I didn’t deserve to have my job and that maybe they should have hired someone who was older and more experienced with children. Fortunately, I met an incredible individual at the Chicano Student Program Center who told me what “Impostor Syndrome” was. The suggestion this person made was to write a letter to myself which listed the reason why I was “worthy and qualified” for my job regardless of what others thought. For two weeks straight, I read the letter before entering the elementary school. After those two weeks, I finally began to feel what I was reading—I was worthy and qualified. Because of this experience, I have decided to make it my priority to recognize when outside factors put into question my own self-worth. Now every time I join and contribute to a committee or begin a new job or project, I write a letter to myself to remind myself that none of my success is accidental and that I am worthy.
An original version of this post appeared on LaComadre as The “Imposter Syndrome”: Chronicles of First Generation College Students.
Biane Arias
Biane Arias is a first-generation student at the University of California-Riverside. Biane is extremely proud to be from Pico Rivera, California. She majors in political science with an emphasis in public service. Biane credits the amazing teachers and staff of the El Rancho Unified School District for helping her succeed and realize her passion for politics. Biane is an aspiring public servant ...

Join the Movement