Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome it

Have you ever been somewhere where you felt like you didn’t belong ? Like you don’t deserve being there. If you ever experienced it then that is imposter syndrome.

In general imposter syndrome is common in minority groups such as LGBTQ, women, etc.

My first time experiencing imposter syndrome was in Portugal for my master degree. First let me rewind to understand how I got there. I did an engineering degree in one of the prestigious schools in Rabat, Morocco. Before even graduating, I learned English and I wanted to improve my speaking skills. There is no better way to improve a language than study and have a daily life in that language. So naturally I applied for a master degree financed by European Union. Unfortunately, I was put on the waiting list. I was called to join the program one month after the classes have officially begun. So I arrived in Portugal late by one month. And yes I went in with imposter syndrome.

There were three reasons for my imposter syndrome in Portugal. 1- being on the waiting list means I wasn’t good enough to make it to the official list, and of course all other students knew it. 2- I never spoke English before, so speaking english among students from the UK and some who did their undergrads or lived in English speaking countries was a challenge. 3- I was the only African and so called Black among all other students, faculty and staff. They liked taking the fish out of the water pond.  My first month was a struggle. In class even when I had a question, I couldn’t dare ask. When the teacher asks a question even if I knew the answer, I wouldn’t speak because I am ashamed of my particular accent. The bad news is that by being insecure, I tended to whisper my answers which was making it hard for my professor to understand me and in return it reinforced my imposter syndrome that my language wasn’t good enough.  So the question is how did I deal with it?

The academic side was pretty easier. One week after my arrival we had mid term exams where I did pretty well. The grades were public in the sense where all students have access to all grades, so it became clear that I wasn’t on the waiting list because I was the least qualified. When it came to the language, it was quite complicated. However, having a class full of people from around the world can help. In my class we had people from Bangladesh, Jordan, Kazakhstan, China, Pakistan and so on. Having such a melting pot class means there were a variety of accents. After one  month or so, I realized that my accent, although unique, wasn’t that bad. In addition, my understanding of English is way above many other students. That bolstered my confidence and started speaking loudly.

Bravooooooooooo! People could understand me. Surprisingly, I could hold a conversation and explain complex situations. That is the end of that part of my imposter syndrome. 

But not the end of the Imposter syndrome as a whole. It will show back once I move to the US. 

Stay tuned for that section of Imposter syndrome and how I dealt with it.