If there were one thing I would scream from the rooftops, broadcast across national radio (or at least record on Encore and wack on DUO), graffiti on the doors of lecture theatres, and maybe even on the whiteboards, it would be this: YOU DESERVE TO BE HERE.
Of course, in our instance, ‘here’ means Durham. You have been given a place based on your merit, just as everybody else has. Some people may be better at certain things than you, but that does not make them inherently more important, more deserving or worthier of the most devoted worship than you.
In first year, I really couldn’t quiet the voice inside my head telling me that I was a fraud. That everyone could tell I didn’t know where my book in the library was, that I had absolutely no idea how to structure my essay or remember all those grammatical exceptions or that unfamiliar vocabulary. At every desk I sat at: in lecture halls, seminar rooms, in the library or in my room, my inferiority swanned on over into the limelight, meaning that despite my best efforts I just could not concentrate on doing my work my way.
I really want to stress to everyone that they were accepted here for a reason, and that it’s time they accepted that themselves.
I won’t try and fool you, that voice is still just as loud. I still feel the odd one out, the fraud who only succeeds when luck is on her side, but I’m trying to force myself to take more opportunities. I’m just as worthy of volunteering, joining a society exec or applying for work experience as anyone else is. I’m hoping that the more I do this, the easier it will get and the more I will believe in myself. However, this can turn into exerting a lot of pressure on oneself, to the extent it becomes sabotaging. I end up creating gigantic monsters of to do lists, and never being satisfied with what I do achieve because I could always do more. Those lists intimidate me, and before I know it I haven’t looked them in the eyes until the deadline has passed or it’s just too goddam awkwardly late to reply to that message.
What can you do? Talk to your friends about how you feel. Not only will a big weight be lifted, but chances are you’ll find out they feel the same – you’ll have given them a chance to talk about it too. Hopefully this is what I’m doing right now – letting you in on something which shouldn’t really be much of a secret and which perhaps you’ll empathise with. Have a read through your CV or make one. Look at it to remind yourself of what you’ve done and keep updating it with recent successes. This is concrete evidence, solid proof of your worth. Note down compliments or words of praise you receive too – maybe not on your CV though, as I’m not sure that would quite give the right message! Perhaps write them in a gratitude diary or on little slips of paper you kept in a nice jar or box!!