Struggling With Success
Opinions / / January 27, 2017
Fourteen years. I’ve been dancing for 14 years. Every year since I was two years old, I’ve done some tap here, Irish step there, jazz for a few years, and ballet for more than a few. At Lawrenceville, I’ve been a part of the dance program for three years now: I’ve danced in two SDC performances (one of which I co-choreographed), I’ve taken two years of classes, and am in my second term of advanced. This is all to say, I’ve done a lot of dance. But despite the fact that I’ve walked into dozens of dance studios a countless number of times, I still feel like an imposter.
Whenever I’m unsure of my arms on the barre, or I stumble in my pirouette across the floor, or make the slightest mistake, I question why I’m in this class, why I would think I’m good at this, and I feel that where everyone else is simply naturally talented, I’m just pretending, putting on a veil of ability under which I hide my incompetence.
Now, granted, I would only think like this on a particularly bad day, but I don’t think I’m alone in having these bouts of self-doubt. All of us struggle from time to time with doubt—doubt about whether we truly deserve to be successful in any of our pursuits, or are just imposters. With the pressure that comes from an institution like Lawrenceville, we often get swept up in the whirlwind of a high-achieving culture that makes us feel that we are masquerading as successful people, rather than realizing that we are, in fact, successful people. In other words, even when we triumph at something, or are talented in some area, we aren’t able to fully realize that we achieve these things because we are talented people. Instead, we believe we are merely pretending to be successful and talented.
If you don’t believe me, listen closer to any conversation on campus about an assignment. How many times has some variation of, “Oh, yeah, totally BS-ed that English paper—wrote it at 3 AM last night!” been jokingly said by you or your friends? This joke is more complicated, however, than just making light of the heavy workload at Lawrenceville. In truth, we’re trying to gloss over the fact that we feel our work is shabby and inadequate, and therefore we are shabby and inadequate.
If you are still reading this and not convinced, I ask you, has there never been a time when you’ve been around a Harkness table and felt a little twinge of envy when someone made a staggeringly elegant point? On the field or the court, when someone on your team completes a move easily that you’re still breaking your back to even attempt, have you never felt a wave of disappointment? Don’t try to tell me that there’s never been a time at this school when you’ve heard of someone’s summer program, test score, accomplishment, etc., when you haven’t felt inadequate and doubted your own resumé. We all feel inadequate sometimes, probably more than we’d care to admit. Unfortunately, the problem lies in the very fact that not admitting it is why we don’t realize that we all think we’re imposters.
My plea to you, fellow imposter, is to be honest. The next time you feel envious, unworthy, or, in short, like an imposter, don’t bluster over your struggles and insecurities, but genuinely reach out to someone about them because, believe it or not, someone out there is envious of you, too. If we all show each other that we think we are imposters, we’ll come to realize that we aren’t.