By Andrea Valadez
I have always been the kind of person who strives for perfection in every area of my life. Unfortunately, the constant state of anxiety I’ve been living in since I was around 8 years old has, at times, made it difficult to meet my own standard of perfection.
Growing up, I looked forward to getting my quarterly report cards. I knew my parents would be proud when they saw all A’s. Even though I was a good student, I harbored a certain amount of guilt because of one very specific downfall. Without fail, my teachers added the dreaded “Is a distraction to her peers” at the bottom of every report card.
I was talkative, almost to a fault, and that weighed heavy on me; I felt like I was taking up too much space. Somewhere along the way, this belief manifested itself into an almost unmanageable level of social anxiety. The girl who loved to talk and be heard was gone.
My first semester at California State University, Monterey Bay was online due to COVID, and I despised it. I had always found joy in learning, and it was hard to come to terms with the fact that my first semester of college didn’t look like what I had dreamed of. Isolation did my anxiety no favors, and I felt more alone now that I couldn’t turn to academia for comfort.
I quickly found that like many other students, I couldn’t retain any information during my CSUMB classes. According to an article published in EdSurge, online retention rates were up to 35 percent lower compared to in-person classes by July 2020.
I felt like I wasn’t benefitting much from being in school, so I decided to take a year off and dedicated 2021 to healing and growing. It was the best year of my life; my gap year helped me reconnect with myself and discover a passion for writing.
I have now been back in school for three semesters. When I joined CSUMB’s student-run newspaper, The Lutrinae, in the fall of 2021, I wasn’t expecting for it to change me as much as it has. My social anxiety hasn’t disappeared, but journalism has made it so my anxious thoughts aren’t as scary anymore.
Journalism has helped me become more self-assured, even during times where I don’t know if I belong. Every now and then, I look around the professional rooms I’m in and I convince myself that everyone is looking at me and wondering “Is she in the wrong place?”
Something that has helped me through this specific form of anxiety is knowing that many young professionals can relate. According to the Harvard Business Review, “around one-third of young people suffer from (imposter syndrome).”
A common fear of those with imposter syndrome is that they are in constant danger of being exposed as a fraud. We tend to believe that we may not be worthy of certain responsibilities.
One thing I’ve found that helps quiet these anxious thoughts are words of affirmation. Simply saying “I have this job because I earned it” in the mirror before work can help ground yourself during moments of self-doubt.
It’s also been recommended that people who suffer from imposter syndrome make a conscious effort of acknowledging their achievements — this can be as small as checking off items on a daily to-do list. I’ve found that these things help me stay present and proud of how far I’ve come.
If you relate to these experiences, I encourage you to talk to someone you can trust. It’s important that we’re open with each other about our personal struggles because a lot of us are likely trying to heal from the same things.
While I still have some growing left to do, I’ve come a long way from that 8-year-old girl who was afraid to take up space. At 21 years old, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to not only amplify my own voice, but to help others find their own.
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