Feeling lost? You’re not alone
One of the things I promised myself when starting this student blog four years ago is that I would be authentic. This meant that I would be honest about my time at university, highlighting the positive as well as the negative experiences that I faced. I believe that OurWarwick is a wonderful platform for students to communicate with one another and to allow for these safe spaces to be created in order to facilitate truthful, honest discussion. For me, this meant that I could show my vulnerability and reach out to connect people together, showing that we are not alone in our journeys through university.
Having said this, I now realise that I distanced myself from this promise this year. I stopped doing what I loved most of all, which was writing, and I became increasingly alienated from who I wanted to be. Creative pursuits such as being a student blogger took a backseat in my life, and I began feeling out of touch with not only what I was doing, but who I was as a person.
Although in hindsight, I can now identify what was happening to me, at the time, I wasn’t fully conscious of myself. I knew I didn’t feel comfortable, but this had become the way I felt day in day out, rather than it being like a sudden switch within me. This feeling overwhelmed me slowly but surely and I was unaware how serious it really had become. All I knew was that I just felt uneasy with myself.
A phrase that recently emerged has been the “imposter syndrome”. This feeling is often described when someone feels out of place in a social context, feeling like a ‘fraud’, as if they do not deserve to be where they are. Impostor syndrome can be linked to other feelings of self-doubt, such as fear of success, fear of failure, or even self-sabotage. But it’s not simply another symptom of low self-confidence or excessive humility. It involves a constant fear of exposure, isolation and rejection.
Arguably, this is how I began to feel this year. After my year abroad, I had this constant fear that I didn’t ‘do enough’, or ‘learn enough’, or ‘grow enough’ during the year that was meant to be the ‘best year of my life’. There were so many expectations placed upon me and I felt insecure about what I had, or hadn’t, accomplished. There was always this fear of not being ‘enough’ and I began doubting who I was or whether I even deserved my place at university.
I bottled up my feelings and resorted to staying in the library for hours on end in an attempt to catch up on lost time. I began to ignore my friends, my family, and I cut anything ‘fun’ out of my life. In my mind, this was the only cure for my emotional discomfort. When friends and teachers tried to reach out to me, I wouldn’t know how to respond. It made me feel as if everyone else was doing fine and I was the exception that was looked upon in speculation.
It was only when I had the courage to open up to a friend about my feelings that I realised that I wasn’t alone. She was going through the same rollercoaster ride of emotions as I was, and as many others were too. She normalised the feeling for me, and introduced me to the term “imposter syndrome”. I strongly believe that this should be a topic to be talked about more and shown to be a natural feeling that arises at any stage within one’s life.
After this awakening discussion, I started to work on my mental health by listening to podcasts such as Oprah Winfrey’s “SuperSoul Conversations”. It really helped me come to terms with how I was feeling. I tried to be less harsh on myself and see all that I had learnt in my year abroad, rather than focusing on what I hadn’t. A simple reframing of how I felt made a world of difference. I began to have open conversations with those around me in order to better understand how I was feeling, as well as sympathise with challenges that they faced, too. At the end of the day, having a strong support system in place is paramount. Whether this is with friends, family, or the awareness to reach out to Wellbeing at Warwick or the Internet for support.
In these uncertain, unprecedented times, everything seems to be up in the air. For those having just finished your exams, I can only imagine the worries you must be facing in terms of how you will be assessed and whether you have done enough to pass the year. For people in my position who are finishing university, many of us will be entering the world of work whilst in the midst of a recession. Fear of not being good enough or having low self-esteem are natural, especially at the moment, as the whole world is facing a pandemic. However, please do talk about your feelings. Please do reach out and have these conversations. Please keep safe.
I hope that I have shown my authenticity through this blog and that after reading this you are feeling a little less alone, a little less fearful. If you ever need to talk to someone, you can always message me.