Story of my life or why do I suffer from Imposter Syndrome?
Let’s start from the very beginning.
I’ve never been confident about my skills and knowledge in any aspect of my life — studies, work, sports, languages, etc. Even now, while writing this post, I am really struggling — what if I make a grammar mistake? What if I sound funny to people that read it? What if I make no sense? What if no one is interested in anything I’m trying to explain here (most probably that is exactly the case).
I’ve never been good at school. Mostly because I’ve never been able to sit still for more than 10 mins — I would rather look at birds out of the window than listen to boring teachers (spoiler: silly me).
However, everyone kept telling me — you just need to apply yourself and you can become an excellent student! Really? Indeed, every time I spent more time on any of my assignments, I would get a good grade and a friendly pat on my back — you see? You can when you try harder!
Yet for some reason I didn’t want to try harder…I hated that weird feeling of being good at something. At first, I would feel proud of myself, get too excited and exposed to people discussing my intellectual capabilities. But then…I would start hating all these expectations and eventually give up being a good student again.
And here comes high school! Everyone expecting you to give solid answers to the following questions:
- Which universities are you applying to?
- Which programmes are you interested in?
- Which exams are you taking?
- WHOM DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Are you serious? I had zero clue. Because I wasn’t great at anything — that’s what I’ve been thinking all this time. Am still thinking the same though..
And why wasn’t I great at anything? Because I didn’t apply myself the way I should have done it. Is it my fault? Yes, it is. But little did I know when I was just a teenager who was mostly interested in running around, rolling in mud, playing football with lads and just being all fidgety.
But behind all this silliness I had this annoying voice telling me, Poli, what do you want? I wish I was a scientist, I wish I became an engineer, a biologist, a chemist…I wish…I wish…I wish…
Unfortunately, the only option I had is to get a business degree (fortunately for someone, no doubt). Actually, I had a very good time studying business, finding areas of interest, and meeting inspiring people. But I kept wishing I was an engineer, a biologist, a chemist…
Since getting my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration I had 2 more years of higher education and 3–4 years of work experience overall.
I was bored to death…I feel bad saying it (and maybe I should), because there are people out there which either have no choice or they don’t have a job at all.
Yet, I couldn't do anything with myself but hating everything around me. I felt that it is not who I am, this is simply wrong! And then again…this horrible and burdening I WISH.
I was depressed. I have never felt lower in my life. I hated myself, I hated everything I was doing, because there was no meaning in it. I remember how I burst in tears yelling at my mom — you don’t understand how it feels not to have a meaning in life! But you know what she said? She said that she knows. She is my guardian angel and I can’t express how grateful and lucky I am to have her — she is supporting me in every possible way.
That’s how and why I’ve applied to the University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science — MSc Environment and Development with the focus on agriculture and ecology. And they took me! I had no expectations, I was already planning other ways out of my meaningless life.
Once I started my studies, I was overwhelmed by excitement and pride — what a change, from Business Administration to THIS. I had classes in soil science, agriculture and forestry — couldn’t believe it, was I dreaming?
However, this joy was ruined by one little (actually pretty big) thought — I am not a scientist and I will never be one. I had (and still have) all these amazingly talented people around me with crazy degrees and experiences. How can I be like them? I will never be anything like them. I don’t even have the courage or confidence to call myself a scientist.
When doing my field work in Poland, I was surrounded by extremely smart scientists that specialise in various sectors — from forestry to mycology. I couldn’t do anything with myself but feel stupid and useless. My research on peoples’ attachment to forest seemed like a kinder-garden craft session so my mother can be proud of me. What can I do? That’s the way I felt about it.
However, I keep meeting people on my way that tell me, Poli, you know more than you think, embrace yourself, embrace your knowledge. But how can I explain them that I simply feel embarrassed talking about things I’ve just recently learned? I feel stupid and silly. Some of my grades are pretty low because of this, because I just can’t explain myself, thinking that people would start laughing at me.
How am I doing at the moment? I am about to graduate and am looking for a very first job in the sector of forest ecology — and I am petrified and very frustrated. How to compete with people that have everything it takes to succeed?
I don’t know, but I’m really trying to push my boundaries and convince myself that I am a scientist, a very brave one.