Student Blog | Marilyn
Overcoming Imposter Syndrome
Posted Sep 20, 2019, by Marilyn
As a latinx, first-generation graduate student, womxn of color, there are moments of self-doubt that lead me to believe that I am an imposter. Being a double Trojan at USC has allowed me to see a shift in perspective from the transition of undergraduate to graduate student life. During my senior year of undergrad, I learned about Occupational Therapy through an elective course. I immediately was drawn to the field as I began to understand how occupational therapists can redesign the life of an individual, in order to support them with doing the things they want and need to do. My ideal profession of being a medical doctor completely changed as I fell in love with the profession of OT. With this career change, I began to have an inner dialog that impacted my confidence about whether I would be a good OT, whether I would be accepted into a competitive master’s program, and if I was making the right career move. It was evident that my undergraduate peers had been preparing to be an occupational therapist way longer than I did and it definitely took a mental, physical, and emotional toll on me. So with all that being said, let me tell you what helped me overcome imposter syndrome:
- Sharing my insecurity with my village
Vulnerability is not something that comes easy to me, but overtime I’ve learned about the importance of speaking up and sharing what is truly going on in my mind. My awareness of imposter feelings emerged over the summer intensive program, while I began to get connected to peers and understood their educational training. Immediately, the negative self talk of “I am not as prepared” or “Is this really going to be a good summer” or “I am smart enough,” thoughts began to creep in. However, I chose to take a leap of faith and shared with my peers that I was struggling in certain areas. This transparency truly set the stage for our friend group and even though we were divided into different academic cohorts, I know that they played a pivotal role in recognizing my worth as a student in the masters program. Simultaneously, I had the support of high school friends that always seemed to know when I was having moments of self-doubt. My high school friends just knew how to make me laugh and reminded me to find the joy in my failures and feelings of inadequacy. Time and time again, I realize that speaking to my village provides me with reminders of my purpose and why I chose OT. For example, over summer 2019 I had the opportunity to present a case study at my fieldwork site. Dr. McIntyre, Rachel, and I advocated for OT and the need of continued services for the population that was being served. My why became even more clear after that presentation.
Reframing my mindset
Beginning to reprogram my mindset about certain feelings set the stage for healthier growth not only as a student, but also personally and professionally. Here are some statements that I needed to reframe:
- I don’t have all the answers → I don’t need to know all the answers
- I am a failure → Failure is a learning opportunity
- Should I be here? → I need to be here because my community needs me
- I feel useless right now → The fact that I feel useless, does not mean that I am useless
Truthfully, it comes down to being kind about the inner dialog we have as individuals. I am unable to pour from an empty cup, so I need to continue to engage in positive self-talk, while I also lift up my academic community and clients in each setting that have the privilege to be at. We never know what someone is going through, whether that be a professor, classmate, or client, but supporting someone as they reframe their mindset is life giving.
The big picture
There is only one YOU. We each have been cultivating talents that no one else has, so understanding that and truly believing it often is the hardest part. However, when I am studying for long hours of the night and feeling overwhelmed, I find a sticky note or sheet of paper and write 3 reasons why I am grateful to be in this season of life as a student. I am not alone in this journey of self-discovery with OT and neither are you. In the end, I have learned that the impossible is in fact possible if I stay prepared and believe that it can be done. So whether you are a prospective student applying to the bachelors/master’s program, a current student interested in obtaining your OTD or PhD, or just a reader curious about OT, have the courage to pursue your dream and know that the big picture can be possible.
Hit the ground running!
Posted Sep 4, 2019, by Marilyn
Summer is officially over and hello second year of grad school! Whether you are a prospective student or current student in the Division, I hope that you are remaining present as you return to school, work, or are managing everyday life. In order to get prepared for the fall semester, here are 5 tips that helped me hit the ground running:
- Develop a weekly schedule: This visual weekly schedule provides me with the opportunity to get adjusted to the layout of classes, fieldwork, ambassador work, leisure, and play! I begin to work on this schedule the week prior to classes starting and readjust accordingly during the first week of school.
Use a planner: I love planners! Being able to have a monthly grid and daily breakdown of weeks, helps me recall important deadlines and keeps me up to date on tasks that need to get completed. I know this sounds very structured, but I have seen other peers use this strategy successfully. As the semester progresses time seems to go by quicker, so forgetting to do a reading, missing an assignment or not submitting a work project can induce some anxiety. Some alternatives to getting a planner are creating a daily to-do list on a sticky note or setting reminders on your phone. Figure out what will be best for you to remain organized during the semester!
Learn to say no: Trying to have a healthy balance in school is critical to my well-being. During my first year in the program, I definitely spread myself thin. I was a graduate housing resident assistant, volunteered in my ministry, encouraged family and friends during important milestones, studied for the adult rehab and mental health immersion, was the maid of honor for my best friend’s wedding, and much more. After the completion of my first year, I realized that in order to be an effective student I could not say yes to everything. I needed to set boundaries with how many times to go out with family and friends, how to devote my time to extracurricular activities, and I needed to determine what my priorities were. It is okay to protect your time and sanity, so you can excel in the program. After all, that is why you are here!
Create a conducive environment for studying: Moving back home for my second year, I realized that my environment would be changing and thus it would impact where I would be studying for the semester. I began to trial areas in my home and nearby coffee shops, to determine what environment would support me with remaining focused. I ended up finding a great hole in the wall coffee spot and organized my dining room table as a plan B. Have you considered which environment is conducive to maximize your productivity?
Ask for help: My go to tip! I see myself as a lifelong learner, so being able to ask for help provides me with guidance and awareness to be an informed person. Even though I am a second year student, I still do my best to reach out to faculty, mentors, and peers for support to navigate school. Faculty at the Chan division truly want to see every student succeed, so I try my hardest to visit professors’ office hours if I have questions. Mentors help remind me of my mission with OT and remind me in moments of uncertainty that I am where I need to be. Peers hold me accountable to working hard in the classroom and help me find a balance between work and play.
Whether you are a current or prospective student, feel free to reach out to the ambassador’s email to receive further support to navigate student life. We are here for you and want you to feel confident when you hit the ground running!