Stories of Feeling “Never Enough”

graphic by Julie Wang

Imposter syndrome: defined by the belief that one does not be- long in an environment or that one is not good enough often in spite of external validation; a phenomenon where one could experience it one day and not the next, in one situation but not the other

by Ava Ransbotham, Opinions writer

Sometime during the first week of freshman year, my math teacher asks a question, and the answer comes to me before anyone raises their hand. But mine stays by my side, fidgeting with my hairband. I don’t want the girls sitting next to me to know I’m good at math.

A new school gives me the chance to edit the narrative; last year people liked me, but sometimes it felt like being good in school made me a little unapproachable. I don’t want to be isolated, so I’ve always struggled to find a balance between gaining the respect of my teachers and the approval of my classmates.

My mixed-level math class doesn’t make the battle of balance easy. I sit with girls I want to be friends with and pretend not to remember the rules of function composition, instead of doing the honors problems. I like talking to them, but I’m hiding part of myself to fit in, and there’s this ever-present worry that one of them will find out.

Every day I take an hour finishing the honors problems I spent all of class not doing, which gives me the sense that I shouldn’t have a spot in the honors class at all. I’ve managed to feel like a fraud with my peers, as well as in my studies.

Having the name “impostor syndrome” for my feelings validates them, enabling me to let go of the self doubt I’d been feeling. The next day, I raise my hand to answer a question. My teacher smiles, and the social ostracization I was picturing never comes; the girl next to me whispers, “Slay, Ava!” And honestly, I feel pretty slay. All it took was confidence, and the words: “impostor syndrome.”

by Hana Futai, Opinions writer

On YouTube, we routinely see seemingly normal teenagers getting into Ivy League schools. We see students around us scoring perfectly on the SAT and the ACT while simultaneously having pages worth of extracurriculars. With this atmosphere, it is no surprise that successful adolescents are struggling to find their self worth.

The influence of social media platforms has only given us more opportunity to compare ourselves to random teenagers who look like they know exactly what they are doing. I am only a freshman, yet when I see others excelling, I feel as though I am not doing enough. As I look around at my classmates, I see that many are running for class office or Senate, joining many clubs and doing volunteer work. 

I start to believe that even though it is four years away, this is the standard that colleges want to see and that my accomplishments are not valid. Because college is viewed by many high schoolers as the endgame, we end up placing too much pressure on ourselves. 

When we experience these spirals, finding hobbies that we love can help give our minds a break. For me, that love is gymnastics. The physically and mentally demanding sport has brought me blood, sweat and tears, but has also helped me grow as a person. 

There is no doubt that I have had times where I struggled with believing that I was good enough, but the past nine years of doing gymnastics has taught me to refrain from comparing myself to others and to focus on my progress. I’ve learned to be proud of my accomplishments regardless of how good my teammates are. 

Imposter syndrome isn’t a mindset that we can eliminate from our heads. But finding passion for activities that gets your mind off of triggers can certainly help. As we continue to grow and learn throughout our lives, it is important to find the right people to surround yourself with; people who will never let you forget your self worth, and validate your emotions. But most of all, we cannot forget to be kind to ourselves because at the end of the day, it starts with us.

by Noa Racin, Opinions writer

The art room smelled like it always did — of acrylic paint and sawdust. Taut brown papers stretched crisply over the graffitied tables, dotted with sprawling signatures and rudimentary doodles.

I took a nervous exhale.

Every summer, I gazed in awe at the “shlatim” hanging around camp — wooden murals each team makes for “Macabia” — our camp color war. I had longed to impress my legacy on the ageless boards.

This year, I finally had my chance. When my team sat down to plan, however, I suddenly grew nervous — It became apparent that my rudimentary and self-taught artistic style would be out of place in the realistic mural we planned.

The overwhelming feeling of inadequacy was easy to self-diagnose. I feared disappointing my fellow artists, all of whom, I felt, were vastly more capable.

I elected to paint a fox in the corner of the mural, spending hours learning how to paint, but when I beheld the final result, it looked terrible. I was perhaps more ashamed the next day, when, much to my chagrin, I found the fox painted over by another. This seemed to me a confirmation of my inadequacy.

Yet on closer inspection, I noticed the original integrity of my painting was preserved; the shape of my fox remained under new paint. The new artist simply added her own touch to my work — emphasizing shadows, darkening the color of the fur. Seeing my work blend seamlessly with another’s empowered me.

Now, nearly two years later, this moment makes me smile. Overcoming impostor syndrome is not only a work of inner confidence; it requires the ability to unabashedly embrace imperfections and collaborate.