Imposter syndrome

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I go to Oxford. I study history. I am shit at it. At least, that is the impression I got after one term here. My tutors seem to stare at me as if I am some moronic pest in every tutorial. I get comments like: “superficial at best” and “not devastating.” To be honest, it’s not their fault; in most of my tutorials (and whilst preparing work for them) I’m quite inebriated. It’s not a problem I promise Mum – It’s just that I feel everyone at Oxford is much cleverer than I am. Call it a coping mechanism if you want. The biochemists might as well be studying History for all I know; they know a lot more about my subject than I do. Henry II, is he really all that different to Henry I – let me check with Wikipedia.

I am shit at History. The only reason I picked this stupid subject was because it has fewer contact hours than any other course, and, I am the dictionary definition of sloth. I spend most the day in the library hoping that some process of osmosis will allow knowledge to transfer from the books to me. The highest score I have got all term was on the NHS alcoholism survey.

I did dream of coming to Oxford; it seemed like some mystical academic place. If it was so special I wouldn’t be here, so why am I? How on earth did I slip through the interviews then? It is because I only got good grades at A-level. My school was an exam house. Everything I shat out in my exams was spoon fed to me in lessons. They tutored me for interview by coaching my lying skills. If there is one thing that I have achieved, it is proving the fallibility of the Oxford admissions process.

The bizarre truth is that many I have met in Oxford are in the same position as me: an unending path of self-doubt. If you truly and undoubtedly think that you belong in, or have the right to be at, Oxford, without a single moment of hesitation, might I suggest that you seek imminent medical attention to remove your own head from being so far up your own arse. I don’t feel clever, maybe I am not, but perhaps this feeling is nothing but a result of the pressure Oxford bears on us all. By fifth week a fresher in my college had already rusticated and, more telling than anything, ten percent of the Oxford student body seeks counselling every year. The problem, therefore, is not you. You might feel like little more than a crippled wreck but this is something born of both your expectations of the university and it of you.

At the bottom level, most of the people here are, like you, distinctly normal. I feel Oxford creates this unrealistic and unhealthy necessity for success. Stop treating university like a means to an end. You are studying at Oxford. That alone is fucking fantastic. You have earnt this and don’t need to prove anything anymore. 

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