Feeling like you’re inadequate? You’re not.
I’m a first-year and I’m feeling really inadequate as I compare myself to everyone else. Back in high school, I did a lot and was at the top of my class. Here, compared to everyone, I’m mediocre at best. How do I stop feeling this way?
Stressed Out First Year”
Dear Stressed Out First Year,
This is something that I feel like everybody at an “elite” institution goes through. I remember as a first-year, I would feel imposter syndrome in so many aspects of college. Interviewing to get into clubs, applying to prestigious internships, speaking up during a discussion section, etc. The intensity of these things made me feel like I was not equipped to stand out at a school like Barnard/Columbia. I was constantly afraid of not being good enough and felt that I didn’t belong. However, the first piece of advice I could give, as cheesy as it sounds, is to stop comparing your own journey to the journey of others. You have no idea what resources they started off with or what things they may be going through in their life. Many individuals may look like they have it together, but everyone is always going through their own struggles and a shiny internship or Instagram profile won’t tell you that. Your time here at Barnard/Columbia is nobody else’s but yours, you have so many years ahead of you to become more comfortable with the ropes of this school, and not to spoil it but, nobody really knows what they’re doing.
I also think that as students that even worked hard enough to get to a place like this, we all tie a certain aspect of our self-worth to our success professionally and academically. And while you should be very proud of those accomplishments, the biggest thing I learned was that I am much more than my grade on a midterm. It’s necessary to remind yourself that being “mediocre” at a school like this, means you’re working incredibly hard and are still a great student. I found that there is so much freedom in realizing that when you just focus on your own journey and growth not just as a student but as a person and ignore the noise of others, you begin to flourish and appreciate the parts of yourself that aren’t tied to the school. How do you take care of yourself? What do you enjoy doing outside of class? How can you make time for the parts of life that nourish your soul? You become a better student when you prioritize your health and overall happiness more than working so hard and comparing yourself to others that you just burn out. At Columbia, and in life, there will always be someone better than you at whatever thing. Rather than seeing that as a downside, look at it as a way to constantly challenge yourself, grow as a person, and find freedom in loving the parts of you that make you a valuable person and aren’t tied to your grade on that LitHum paper. Because I promise that the best people you meet here and in the world will not care about your grades, but the way you treat them and present yourself.
I hope this helps make your first year a little better.
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