By Simar Anand - Well-being Officer for the Insight Project
As I stood in the middle of a considerably tight room crowded with legal scholars, lawyers, and fellow law students, I could not help but feel… unworthy. I had to pause for a moment to consider how I even ended up here amongst these people. I was only a few weeks into my first semester of law school, so I didn't know nearly enough about the study of law. When I felt like a nobody, how was I supposed to engage in intellectual conversation with people who were so qualified?
I felt lost and confused when I attended a networking event in the first few weeks of law school. What was intended to be a chance for me to interact with individuals in the legal profession and gain a deeper understanding of the industry ended up being a chance for me to list all the ways I felt unworthy. I tried to initiate conversations with a few people, resulting in good chats. But somehow, I still felt uneasy. I just didn't feel like I belonged there. It made me feel like an imposter. I was aware that I wasn't supposed to feel this way while being exactly where I wanted to be my whole life, in law school!
During my first few weeks of law school, I felt like an imposter for weeks on end. I often criticized my ability to grasp and comprehend legal jargon and felt less intelligent than some of my colleagues. I went through lectures understanding the topics but remained silent throughout tutorials because I felt unworthy of learning in the presence of everyone else. I was afraid I would respond incorrectly or that I wouldn't speak like "someone in law school.”
I realized I had to do something to help myself feel more "at home" with the idea of studying and going to law school because this was going to be my life for the next two years. Although what I'm about to say hasn't fundamentally altered my perspective on life or my experience in law school, it has enabled me to come to terms with my thought process and understand why I feel or have felt the way that I have.
Many of my problems stemmed from my inability to gain admission to a Canadian law school on my first try. Because of that, I believed that I had already failed, and I was undermining my achievement of being accepted to law school in another country. Therefore, to overcome these challenging emotions, here are some of the steps I had to take to understand and process my imposter's syndrome:
1. Regardless of where my law school was, I started by celebrating the opportunity I got to attend an institution that teaches the law, a subject I am quite passionate about. I had to keep in mind that I had not suddenly decided to move to the UK to study law. After giving it much thought and weighing out the pros and cons, I made the choice to study abroad. I had to remind myself that I have many possibilities to make myself proud, and not getting into a Canadian law school was not the only one. Leicester would provide me with the same or many more opportunities to feel accomplished!
2. Sharing my experiences with my peers helped me immensely. As soon as I started confiding in a few friends, I understood how many of us had taken a similar path to law school. Everyone has put their best foot forward and has given their best efforts to be here today, including me. Therefore, I was in that room full of brilliant colleagues and academics that day because I deserved to be there, sharing my experiences with others, and learning from others' knowledge and expertise in the field of law.
3. Finally, I had to accept that I am a newbie and, possibly, a lifelong learner. I do not have to be perfect at anything. I was only a few weeks into law school, so feeling overwhelmed by the content and the expectations were natural. But, in a field as dynamic as law, I had to accept that this was possibly my new reality. I'd have to accept this "learning phase" and adapt to this new feeling. For starters, I should probably raise my hand in the tutorials and share my thoughts. Whatever is incorrect will most likely be corrected as I learn. Eventually, as I gain enough legal knowledge to talk about legal issues more comfortably, I'll naturally start to speak "like a law student."
Although I shared a personal journey, it has been one of my greatest learning curves. I'm sure this won't be my first and only experience with imposter syndrome. However, it was important for me to recognize it, acknowledge it and seek possible solutions. My imposter syndrome has not vanished, but it is one that I can manage now that I understand it.
I sincerely hope that anyone who reads this or makes it to the end of this post understands that if they have ever felt this emotion, they are not alone. You have the potential, credentials, and mindset to be here today! Let's start by ticking off step number 1; and celebrating your achievements! Congratulations on getting this far; enjoy your experience in law school, and I will try to do the same!