Conquering Imposter Syndrome
By Sean Richardson
Master’s student in Higher Education Administration at Boston College
In 2016, I found a black hole in my stomach, and it would always appear at certain points in time, and suck my insides up, and other times, I wish it would take my physical being with it.
I was a first year student at my college and I knew I was different from everyone else. I was Black, a student on scholarship, and a student who knew I was not the typical student in my undergraduate institution. Knowing I was on the outside and on the margins, I often felt out of place. When feeling this way, I eventually internalized it as truth, and when doing so, the blackhole in my stomach that just kept reappearing, had a name — Imposter Syndrome.
I would sit in my class as the only Black student, sometimes the only student from public school and really consider if I belonged in this space studying The Odyssey. The once vocal, bubbly student who was not shy in the slightest was now stoic, and it can be attributed to the blackhole of imposter syndrome. As I went through my first semester of college, I called home once, crying, and my sister told me, “If you were not supposed to be there, you wouldn’t now, shut up.” In hindsight, she was of course right, but I did not believe her. She didn’t go to college, how could she know?
I went into college very timid that my life and my experiences as a Black person really only existed in my head. Frankly, I was slightly embarrassed of where I came from and what I experienced because of circumstances growing up. I quickly found people who validated those experiences, I also learned that those experiences made me one of a kind and if I can’t embrace these parts of myself that play a major role in who I am, then do I give people the privilege of knowing who I am? My experiences brought me to college. They helped me along the way. They remain super important to this day.
The black hole was slowly subsiding. I found places to be authentic, and to rant, and to feel valid in my feelings and my entities and all parts Sean.
Even though my experience was tough, I am incredibly grateful for it. Like I mentioned earlier, every experience I have brings me to where I am now. College is a hard time for everyone, but when you add extra layers of isolation and marginalization it can be tougher. Obviously, you’re surrounded by people who live completely different lives from you, and something will happen where you feel out of touch or excluded and then you’ll feel it — you’ll feel like you’re not good enough but we cannot allow imposter syndrome to win. You are more than just your skin, more than just your class, more than just your experiences.
You belong in every space you are put in, even if it’s a blackhole that you need to call your sister over.