Mama M: I'm an Impostor

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Dear Mama M.,

I am nearing the end of my first year in Pharmacy School. My problem is, I feel like I am an impostor. I just don’t think I'm smart enough to be here. Honestly, I don’t know how I got accepted here. I think it is some kind of mistake. It’s not that I am stupid, not really, but I am not that smart either—not compared to all my hot-shot classmates. They are so smart.

I look around class when we are in small groups, and I just feel smaller and smaller and smaller every day, next to them. I am somehow passing all my classes, but I am nowhere near the top of the class. I used to be tops at my undergrad school, and I used to get attention from classmates and professors.

Now at UCSF, I am in the middle to lower end of the class, intellectually, and I feel kind of like a failure most days.

I don't know how to go on in this program. Can you help?

Sincerely, Just Pretending to Be Smart

Dear Pretending,

I once found myself the Program Coordinator of a recovery center for women.  I had to design and implement a curriculum that would make my clients choose the wide-awake world of sobriety, which included facing head on lost babies, dead friends and raggedy lives instead of the fun-filled world of impulsivity and addiction. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my own life seemed a bit in shambles. Yet, every day I got up in the morning and took a trip down Fraud River to work so that I could be the teacher for these amazing but broken women. A middle-of-the-road student of life posing as a teacher. 

Perhaps the humiliation of being an average student is too much for you.  But perhaps you are a teacher in disguise. Perhaps you are really showing up to master the life art of being still and humble and recognizing your own unique contribution to the world. 

Maybe at the end of your first year in Pharmacy School, you bring the humble gift of presence, instead of the highest grades in the class.  Maybe the world told you that grades are more important than presence.  They were wrong, of course. 

Sadly, somehow the competitive spirit of team sports found its way into the classroom.  Learning is not a competition. It is not a sport.  Learning is a process of sharing information and growing into your own wisdom. And the grades got thrown in there to create an illusion of intelligence. 

I trust you will find your own spirit.  I trust you to learn that, though you may no longer be the center of high-grade attention, you are still worthy of love and acceptance and you are still intelligent and will make a great pharmacist.  You will learn that accepting your own limitations without minimizing your strengths and unique presence is far more important than being the best.  

In all the important moments in life, no one will know or care what your GPA was. 

Keep up the good work of being human.

Yours truly,

Mama M