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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
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Identities: Immigrant daughter imposter syndrome

Success was never an ‘option’— it was a means to survival

From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's April 2024 print edition. You can find the digital version here

The following piece is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. All opinions are edited for grammar, style and argument structure and fact-checked, but the opinions are the writer’s own.

I was born in 2003 into the grapevine of Haiti’s diaspora. My father immigrated from Haiti to the United States at 16 years old. My grandfather stressed the importance of education to every member of our family. 

My father has his master’s degree, as does my mother. As a Political Science major, graduate school seemed like the only option to achieve my dream of working at a think tank. But what happens when every other applicant is seemingly just as intelligent as me and just as involved in extracurriculars as I am? Applying to colleges was hard enough, but graduate school? Suddenly, I was lost in a sea of imposter syndrome.

According to Psychology Today, imposter syndrome causes someone to believe that “they aren’t as competent or intelligent as others might think—and that soon enough, people will discover the truth about them.” Despite my extensive resume and the fact I had worked tirelessly the last three semesters, in many ways, I felt as if I was not good enough. What do you do when the person telling you you’re not good enough is not a peer or relative, but yourself? 

Being raised in an immigrant family, success was never an “option” — it was a means to survival. For my family to leave Duvalier’s Haiti, they needed to thrive and persist. In the United States, that theme of excellence continued. My father was always the prodigal child in his family, and parts of me desired to emulate that. Being in an immigrant family often means living in the shadows of those who have achieved lifetimes of success. So, then, how do I beat imposter syndrome?

It began with an hour-long visit to the Career Center. I sat in the chair across from an advisor, and with weeks’ worth of anxiety built up, I finally said: “I don’t think I’m smart enough for grad school.”

I learned a lot during this visit — how holistic admissions processes are and how there is no such thing as a “perfect” applicant. Imposter syndrome’s hold on us exists by insisting that perfectionism is something anyone can achieve, and to not achieve it signifies failure. However, perfection is ultimately unattainable — it is meant to hold us back, not push us forward.

I am the daughter of an immigrant. My life exists as a dichotomy of emotions and beliefs. I know it is not just me struggling with my identity in terms of imposter syndrome.

So what’s the next step?

We, as the children of immigrants, are the result of generations of sacrifice. Our existence was never a mistake. Our intelligence, drive and work ethic make us inherently unique. I believe the only way to overcome imposter syndrome is to remind ourselves of our identity in duality — the blood of the homeland and the blood of the U.S. pumps through us. 

Sophia Joseph is a sophomore in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle. 

This article was edited by Alana Parker, Jelinda Montes and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis, Sarah Clayton, Ariana Kavoossi and Romy Hermans.

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