Surviving Imposter Syndrome by Remembering your “Why”

By Ashley Williams

It’s that very real time of the semester where all the assignments of the semester. Some professor might even be throwing in a few extra assignments that were never outlined on syllabus. Other are throwing pop quizzes here and there, and you feel like you’re constantly on the go, just trying to make it through on more semester. Some of us maybe start to be so overwhelmed, we begin to doubt ourselves and everything we’ve accomplished so far. Maybe we are even asking ourselves “Why am I here?” , and “Why am I do this?”. It could be imposter syndrome- the feeling that oneself is inadequate or fraudulent despite previous achievements.

I confess, I find myself here. ALOT. I remember the first time this feeling became clear to me. I had just moved to St. Louis and I was beginning my first semester of graduate school. Maybe it was the fact that I was the first person in my family to attend graduate school, or the fact that St. Louis was extremely segregated. It could have been the realization that all PWIs are not created equal. The confidence I had upon graduating undergrad had been shattered within weeks of starting my graduate program. Washington University in St. Louis is a place of great privilege and I came to understand this quickly. Not only was I a black women attending a predominately white institution, I was also poor. Many students at the university would casually go out of the country during breaks and had personal connections to people I could only dream of knowing. I was completely shook the whole semester. Where am I? and how did I get here?! Imposter syndrome much?

I mean, let anyone in St. Louis tell it, WashU is the Harvard of the Midwest. Whew, Chile, the privilege. I am still shook that I am here and will officially be an Alumna of this university in December. I believe that the only reason I’ve been able to make it through is reflecting on my “Why”. Literally answering my question of why am I here? and what is my purpose? I came to the Brown School of Social Work to make an impact. When I have reached my breaking point and was considering dropping out, I had to come back to my why. Most times, that meant praying, meditating and journaling. I leaned on my roommates and family for support. They were hugely influential in helping me rediscover my why.

However, reflection is just one part of it. I also had to cease the opportunities that were presented to me. Since, I’ve completely engrossed myself in the WashU community and essentially claimed what was mine. I met with influential leaders in the community, became acquainted with faculty, ran for student council and became a member of the Black student union executive board. Becoming involved with a university that seemed so strange to me at first, helped me claim my place here. I belong at WashU just as much as any other admitted student and involving myself in the community really helped me see the value I had to offer.

Although the feeling of inadequacy never truly goes away, I think I am able to ground myself by reflecting on my purpose and engaging myself in the community. It seems simple, but it is helping me get through two master degrees at this university. I feel like I am really making an impact not just on campus, but in the St. Louis community. Imposter syndrome is real, but it does not have to be the end all, be all. It’s manageable. You belong. I belong. We are greater than we could have ever imagined.


Ashley Williams is a Contributing Writer for the Pedestal Project, LLC.

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1 thought on “Surviving Imposter Syndrome by Remembering your “Why”

  1. Great post, Ashley, and congratulations on all of your accomplishments! To God be the glory for it all! There are many times that I, too, feel like an imposter in my own world. Staying rooted in who Jesus says I am is the way I get through it as I try to leave my mark on the world also. Many blessings to you!

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