We’ve all heard the fake it till you make it a phenomenon. Like every student, I had a perfectly linear plan on overcoming university. In a predominantly white space, I felt intimidated and silenced from every angle. I always felt like I didn’t deserve to belong because I didn’t fit the mold of what a Queen’s student should be like, and it always went back to how I identify.

Imposter syndrome can have many definitions depending on the way it manifests for the individual. But mostly, it describes the feelings of not being worthy enough for accomplishing anything, because you simply believe you don’t belong or have the right to occupy a space.  Mostly, imposter syndrome describes the feeling of not being able to internalize your successes, regardless of how big or small, because you believe that you got it out of chance or luck. To simply put it, you feel like no matter how hard you try, it will never be good enough. To many students, this phenomenon is quite crippling to one’s mental health, ego, and perception of self. It hinders our actual potential, confidence, and self-image. In the case of international or BIPOC students, imposter syndrome can be a daily attack.

As ESL (English as second language|) English and Psychology student, I’m in a constant battle of trying to navigate not only through my academic potential but my understanding of how I fit in this space. In fact, I wake up every morning feeling like an imposter. As an Arabic native speaker who believes has a strong grip in English, I feel constantly belittled, and I have no one to blame but myself. As for my psychology background, I never got in the program in the beginning (very common in Queen’s). I was fighting through a space that I always felt like I didn’t deserve to belong in. And even after I got in, I genuinely believe it was either out of pure luck, or pity. It took my three years to persist that I needed to be recognized beyond my failed attempts in first year, which was shaped by culture shock, homesickness, social pressures, and dealing with racists comments that I didn’t think much of at the time.

A person with imposter syndrome can have all the training in the world with the finest degrees, and still not believe they have the right for people to recognize their accomplishments.

Throughout all my successes and being super indulged within Queen’s toxic hustler culture, it was never enough for me because I felt like I didn’t belong, or mostly, didn’t deserve to belong. In every club meeting or class seminar, I felt like a fraud holding my head high and making people believe I deserve my place here, but internally I was pacing myself and counting every step to remain calm. My imposter syndrome affects the way I don’t articulate as well when I speak, or how I don’t speak loud enough or project my voice which gets softer as time passes, or how I apologize at the end of every sentence, and how I don’t believe that anything I have to say has any value.

My feelings of being a failure took a major shift. To feel like I earned my place and had a purpose, I volunteered every free hour I had. Ever since third year, I’ve volunteered for 6 Queen’s affiliated organizations every year, spending more that 12 hours of my free time to truly remember my inner beliefs, passions, and core values that were overshadowed by feelings of incompetence.

Discrimination and micro aggressions have a huge impact on developing the onset of imposter syndrome. A lot of international BIPOC students have to fight harder to not only prove themselves to their superiors, but to themselves that they are worthy of obtaining and acquitting their space in this institution. It’s important to recognize how systemic and gender oppression is linked to feeling a lack of deservingness, a multitude of pressure, and doubt to find your voice.

Sometimes what fuels my feelings of being an imposter can be when a student, who knows my background pretty well, looks at me in class and says “good job” or “that was brave” after I read a text aloud.
As an Arab woman, if I ask for help in an English assignment, it may be obvious that it’s not my first language. Or if I ask for help for a psychology assignment, then it will always come back to the idea that I was rejected many times and for that, I’m not good enough. A person who feels like an imposter is a person who will always feel underqualified. Feelings of not belonging or not daring to occupy a space is something that lived within me since first year, imposter syndrome makes me feel small and allows me to portray that in class or even a meeting with a professor. I’ve often let people silence me because I always underestimate what I know. Every good grade or compliment I received, it was always associated with an excuse like how the professor feels bad for me, or maybe it was pure luck, I would use any exaggerated and unrealistic thought to fuel my doubt.
I won’t pretend as if I’ve completely tackled imposter syndrome, I believe that in this time, it will always be present. However, it’s our response to it that matters. To acknowledge your successes in whatever shape they take is a step forward to earning our space. Your self worth shouldn’t be magnified by what you achieve and how you roam the room, it’s the fact that you’re here, you’re making it and fighting with every fibre in your body.
Whoever you are and wherever you came from, you are worthy of every success you achieved, and you deserve to share your insights, your intellect, and allow people to feel the magnitude of your presence.

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