ADVICE: How do I cope with imposter syndrome?


Maddie Barron

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By Maddie Barron and Maddie Khaw

Dear Maddies,

I need some advice about imposter syndrome! Everywhere I turn at Emerson, everyone else seems to be doing more—and doing better—than I am. No matter how much I add to my schedule or how many cool things I involve myself in, I can’t get rid of this nagging feeling of insecurity. How can I overcome this?


Self-Doubting Sam


Dear Sam, 

Do not fret! During the inevitable rapture, your LinkedIn profile will be meaningless. Spend this time learning to purify water, collect canned foods, and build a shelter. Art school shall never prevail amidst eternal fire. 

Emerson is really stressful because everyone’s always doing all these different things all the time but, ultimately, sometimes I need to be snug in my bed watching Kendall Roy be a little bit silly. We’re all here at this school. We’re all getting an Emerson education because we earned it. It’s important to be a part of organizations and maximize your time here, but that’s super hard to do if you’re constantly ripping your hair out from stress and self-doubt. Take your damn time and make your planner look disgustingly color coded and neurotic. 

And our lives don’t end when we graduate. Just because you have to moisturize a little bit more and maybe your bones creak in an embarrassing millennial way, you will still have time to try new things. Even now, you can dip your toes (metaphorically, of course, please keep those nasty little stompers away from me) into anything that intrigues you. Just don’t sound pretentious when you do it. LinkedIn bores me, and I respectfully don’t want to see every post about what you do. Leave me alone. Sorry. Good luck, though. 

With peace and love, 

Maddie B. 


Dear Sam,

I know this feeling all too well. In fact, I am not at all qualified to give you advice about imposter syndrome. Even as I write this, I am getting imposter syndrome about writing an advice column about imposter syndrome. 

Something about the atmosphere of Emerson’s campus has the unfailing ability to make any one individual feel severely, irredeemably inferior. I’m not sure what it is. I don’t why, but there is something about Emerson’s culture that makes me know, deep down in my core, that everyone here is smarter than me, cooler than me, and will one day become much more successful than me. 

Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I know what you mean when you talk about imposter syndrome: that “nagging feeling of insecurity” gets me all the time. Being surrounded by so many creatives who seem to be experts in the most niche subjects possible, I often find myself feeling like I must not have what it takes to keep up with the demands of this artistically cutthroat environment. I did not watch all the Oscar-nominated films. I do not know who directed them. Crucify me!

Despite my persistent case of imposter syndrome, I do have some decently useful tactics for handling this unique form of insecurity. Namely, my go-to strategy is to constantly remind myself that I am inherently and intrinsically better than everyone around me. Of course, this (probably) isn’t true, but the more I tell myself I’m better, smarter, cooler, the more I can “fake it ‘til I make it” a sense of confidence unmatched by anyone in this strangely and subliminally competitive institution. I am the best. Unequivocally. As long as I remind myself of this fact, imposter syndrome cannot touch me. 

If you start to repeat this mantra or similar ones to yourself, it won’t be able to touch you either. You’ll gradually build immunity. Just keep in mind that even if you convince yourself you’re the best, you’ll never be better than me.

Best of luck from a fellow fraud,

Maddie K.  

Need advice? Visit the story highlight on our Instagram, @berkeleybeacon, and fill us in on all the deets through our anonymous form. Xoxo, The Maddies