Experiences of the Heart

|Author: Tessa|

As the GCIL program draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences here and the environment which I’ve called home for the last two and a half months. I’ve come to the conclusion that the GCIL program is many things, but perhaps more so than anything, a petri dish in which my imposter syndrome can thrive.

For reference, imposter syndrome is defined as a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have persistent, often internalized fears of being exposed as a fraud. Imposter syndrome feels like a combination of extreme motivating and demotivating forces all at once. A perfect storm which can leave you feeling as if no combination of time, work, and input will be enough and is therefore pointless, and at the same time can fuel the utmost levels of perfectionism.

I think there are a lot of reasons which lend imposter syndrome a hand in creeping in on a daily basis here during the GCIL program. Perhaps it’s the small instances of gender inequality that are woven into everyday life here, the ones in which my inputs and those of the other women around me are skillfully evaded in favor of input from our male counterparts. Or perhaps it stems from the team-based environment and nature of the GCIL project, in which I am entrusted with key components of our project and feel pressured to deliver flawless and swift contributions. Perhaps these feelings of inadequacy have been slowly gaining momentum as my team gear’s up to present our final project and we scramble over how to put forth a workable and real solution.

My mind’s tendency to over-analyze could spin a million different reasons for why my environment has amplified these feelings and would gladly do so if given the opportunity. However, I can’t help but think about the last time I felt such intense feelings of imposter syndrome creeping into my daily life-- September of 2019, just before I would start my master’s degree in Environmental Engineering at UW. I remember feeling consumed by the idea that I was not cut out for graduate school, and that there had been a mistake in the admissions process. I can vividly recount conversations with friends and family after my acceptance, in which I would joke about a clerical error as the reason for my acceptance-- which was less of a joke and actually more of a true account of my feelings.

But I also can’t help but think about the exceptional support I received just days before I would start my program-- from one of my best friends, Camila, who reinstilled in me that I had been accepted for a reason, and that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It was less than a week after that conversation that I would learn that Camila had been involved in an accident and was unfairly taken from me and from this world. The busy-ness of my first quarter at UW did not really allow ample time for grieving, and before I knew it I was thousands of miles away here in Bangalore. Although I had promised myself that I would hold her words of support and encouragement close to my heart, I think that up until recently, the lack of time spent grieving actually fed into the encouragement of my imposter syndrome here in Bangalore.

I also didn’t recognize that there was room for so much more support in my heart, and that I didn’t need to let go of Camila in order to let it in. I’m not sure exactly what it was that spurred this realization, but I know now that I have been surrounded by a network of individuals who consistently remind me that I am here for a reason, and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

I have been reminded at least a dozen or so times, but for the purpose of time I’ll go ahead and name a few. I was reminded when Sophie told me that she was impressed by my work ethic and accomplishments. I was reminded when Gavin stated matter-of-factly from across the table at Starbucks that I am brilliant. I was reminded when Kayla told me that I am well-spoken and always clearly articulate my point. I was reminded every time Vero complimented my contributions to our project and told me that I had provided valuable components. I was reminded when Taryn joked that in the future, I would be so successful, that even she would want to work for me.

I’m still working on accepting all these small reminders and battling with bouts of imposter syndrome, but my heart is full and I have GCIL to thank for that.

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