Maybe I’m The Impostor: A Sequel


Jessalyn Padilla

Going to therapy and talking to people about my anxiety got me to where I am today. I’m still learning and growing but each day I make progress towards controlling my anxiety.

I remember being a little girl with high hopes. I dreamt of working for NASA as I created weird concoctions made of different types of soap that I found in my mother’s bathroom. At that point in my life, I wanted to get a masters degree and be that independent woman that little girls would look up to.

One thing I didn’t dream of was my anxiety disorder that I found out about when I was in middle school. Great start to making my dreams come true, right? I look back on it now and think to myself Why did no one take me to see someone sooner. 

I can picture little me taking up all of class just to finish a quiz that took most of the class twenty minutes. Sure, I made fantastic grades, but I never wanted to be over-confident when it came to tests and quizzes. I would study for hours on end and psych myself out each time a teacher mentioned the words major and grade

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but I actually didn’t need to study. I knew the material, but I didn’t know how to be confident in myself, and that’s something I still struggle with today. 

During my freshman year of high school, I took it upon myself to create the best notes my biology teacher had ever seen. I put so much effort into those notes each class period that I forgot what I was actually supposed to be doing in class: listening. I ended up making an 89. My very first B. When I got my report card, I cried for hours. My perfect streak had ended. Jaimee Smith failed in life….or so my brain wanted me to think. 

Somedays, I wish I could rewind back to the beginning of that year and slap myself with my notebook and tell myself Whatever you do, make sure to actually listen, but I think it was good that I made that grade; it broke the perfectionist side of me. I don’t want to admit it, but some part of me likes being the best at things and when I’m not, I give up. When my biology teacher saw how much effort I put into my notes, he would compliment me and my peers would as well. It felt good and it almost made up for how poorly I did on some of the tests. 

I’ve dealt with Impostor Syndrome many times in my life. Impostor Syndrome is a self-sabotaging experience that can affect anybody. People who deal with this feel like they don’t deserve good things in life and contribute it all to luck. The phenomenon took my anxiety by the hand and has basically danced the tango with it since I was in grade school. I hated asking questions in class and would only do it if I could convince myself nobody would laugh at me. I would always do the extra-credit assignments even if I had a 99 in the class. The idea of making anything less than an A was something I never wanted to experience because I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that people wouldn’t judge me for it. 

I was so scared of getting exposed as a failure that I put every ounce of myself into anything that I could succeed in because I wanted to be the best. Sadly, the best was never enough. When I got the best grade in the class, I wanted to be the best in my grade level, and when I achieved that, I wanted to be the best in the school, and so on. Nothing was ever good enough for young Jaimee.

Maybe if someone would have given me more hugs or just slapped me with a textbook then I could have woken myself up from that nightmare of constant anxiety. In middle school, I experienced a lot of changes in my life, and I became so upset with myself that I went down a path of terrible self-hate. There was always someone better than me and the fact that I took the longest on every test made perfection more impossible to achieve. 

In the middle of my freshman year, I was admitted into a mental hospital because I was no longer in control of my mind. I was an impostor to myself and I carried with me a very unhealthy mindset that if I couldn’t be the best then I didn’t deserve to live. 

The ironic thing is, I never thought these things about anybody else. I didn’t care what grades my friends made or how good they were at something, they were perfect because they were them. I was just hard on myself and that was my excuse for many years and, for some reason, it became a valid reason to me. 

My experience with Imposter Syndrome and Anxiety changed my life in a multitude of ways, and I learned a lot about myself along the way. I learned that not putting so much effort into notes actually benefited me in ways I couldn’t imagine. I started seeing a rise in my test grade averages, and my stress levels decreased when it came to testing because I became confident in myself. I finally figured out the way I learn best.

I learned that talking about my experience was more helpful than harmful because I was able to get professional help, and I am now on my way to controlling my anxiety and the symptoms that come with the Imposter Phenomenon. 

I’d like to give a special thanks to Mr. Fleming, my biology teacher, for giving me that B. Even though I was very upset about it, I learned a lot about myself from it.