Column: “But I stand out as a fraud, an imposter.”

Reena Alsakaji , Story Editor

Over the course of my high school career, I’ve had a handful of achievements. From grades to extracurriculars, I think I can say that I have worked exceptionally hard to get to the place that I am in. But despite the successes, and the praise, and the fluctuating periods of confidence, I’ve always felt a looming fear that I would be outed at any moment–that my accomplishments were not the accumulation of my efforts but an outcome of chance. 

At Munster, it is no secret that you are surrounded by others with both a means and a motivation to achieve. This has never been a problem for me–I’ve always basked in the system of rankings, despite its many flaws. I relished in the feeling of being a leader, in the echoes of my proud voice radiating back to me. And yet, it almost acts as a double-edged sword. But it is a combination of both my environment and personality that has contributed to this overarching feeling–that everyone around me is a product of their own efforts, but I stand out as a fraud, an imposter with the burning gaze of my peers in the back of my head. 

This constant back-and-forth between my belief in my own qualifications versus these apprehensions often sends me into a spiral–between that of my desire to climb to the next stage in my life and the insecurities tightening their hold. Whenever I find myself excited about taking something into my own hands, I am simultaneously envisioning my success and downfall. This has resulted in a hesitancy to chase after my goals, as well as a facade of certainty when I do. Even when working with my peers, a feeling of nervousness emerges at the prospect of asking too many questions (despite my own love for answering them when asked). 

At the very least, I can confidently say that I have gotten relatively better at dealing with these feelings. The tipping point was the beginning of my sophomore year, when I took my first step into the honors system. I remember fearing that my peers were so much more qualified, and I could not even bring myself to utter a word in class. I know this is untrue now. This past year, I’ve tried reassuring myself that realistically, I am the only one responsible for my successes. However, I think a problem that I face–as well as others who live in Munster–is that overcoming these insecurities are often linked to external validation. There seems to be less and less individuals who have genuine faith in themselves rather than a ranking plastered on a wall. 

There is no quick fix to this–even today, there are moments in which I find myself having doubts, as though my opinions are too large for my small body. For me, at least, the core of the issue lies with self-esteem. At some point during my junior year, I realized that I could not have gotten this far by luck, though some students run out at a much later age. But building a foundation of confidence in the academic world begins outside of it–knowing that your worth extends beyond the classroom is the only way to thrive inside of it. 

I wish I could provide an easy solution–but perhaps it starts with being vulnerable enough to talk (or write) about it in the first place.