Before Pomona College, I attended The Hotchkiss School, an elite preparatory boarding school in New England on a full scholarship. As a first-generation, low-income student, who attended an inner-city middle school, I always felt out of place and unworthy of my being at my high school. Whether it be speaking up against my predominately white classmates or even interacting with faculty and students in clubs and extracurricular activity, there was always a nagging voice in my head which constantly whispered that I do not deserve to be in a blank location or a blank leadership position. I was just another poor student, which they just happened to notice. I just happened to be there at the right place and time.
When discussing my feelings with my Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholar advisor, Yoon Chan, he gave a name to this icky feeling: “Imposter Syndrome.” Once I realized what I was feeling and that it was common among students who come from similar backgrounds as mine, I realized that I had to overcome these feelings to prove society wrong.
As a college student at Pomona College, the #1 ranked liberal arts college in the United States, I still practice these techniques to realize my worth and being. Below are some tips that I found the most helpful and that I utilized the most.
Tip 1 - Accepting my talents
Coming from a Korean immigrant household, one of the values that have been instilled into me is the importance of being humble: a value which is still a core part of me. However, when struggling with imposter syndrome, there was a line where my desire to be “humble” developed into self-depreciation and self-doubt. When people stated “good job” or “you’re so good at ___,” I felt that they were lying to my face. I realized that I needed to sit down, accept compliments, and recognize what my talents were. I had to retrain my brain to believe that accepting my talents and abilities was not an act of arrogance.
Tip 2 - Separating feelings from fact
This tip is similar to the first tip. When things aren’t going my way- whether a professor shot down my comment or didn’t do an assignment well in my internship- there is a tendency to break down and say: I suck, and I don’t belong. However, to stop this negative loop, I sit down and ask myself: Do I suck, or did I just make a mistake? By separating feelings from facts, I can look at a situation from an unclouded point of view.
Tip 3 - Setting Goals
Often, there is a moment where day to day routine in the academic grind becomes monotonous. As a college student, there were many times in the past semester, where I felt like I was running to complete an assignment, then the next, and the next. These moments were where I felt as though I was losing sight of the bigger picture; why was I pursuing higher education? Then, imposter syndrome kicks in. By setting goals and reminding myself of why I was attending college and why I wanted to pursue graduate studies, I was able to feel confident and felt as though I had a direction in which I was running.
Tip 4 - A manifestation and verbal affirmation of “I am ready.”
I think that this tip is fairly straightforward. Looking in the mirror before you go out and saying, “I’m ready!” puts you in the right mood to start the day.
Tip 5 - Relying on mentor and teachers
Working as an NCCEP intern, I am surrounded by successful co-workers and mentors that have come from similar backgrounds as me. I also have supportive mentors and friends in my Jack Kent Cooke community, my college community, my high school community, and my family. Without these people affirming my existence and constantly cheering me on, I would not have been able to be where I am at now and wish for something bigger. Having this support system is essential for students like me, and it may be the make or break for a student feeling confident in entering college.