So, I graduated. Now what?
That thought was the single thought running through my head after graduation. The whole experience felt so underwhelming that I was sure I must be missing some important step. Or worse, I was wondering when someone would approach me and say, “Oh, we need your diploma back. Sorry.” These feelings are all part of imposter syndrome, which I have experienced throughout several points in my life, and I am not alone. Imposter syndrome is an actual psychological phenomenon that involves feelings of doubt and the fear that one will be exposed as an imposter or fraud. It feels absolutely insane to be receiving a graduate degree and in the next moment think to yourself, “I don’t deserve this,” or, “I didn’t really earn this like everyone else, did I?”
Who’s to say what parts of my history or my childhood led me to feel that I’m such a failure or an “imposter.” The point is really that so many people are feeling this way right now. What do we do about this to improve our confidence, our feeling of satisfaction, or that feeling that we have successfully accomplished such a huge goal? All our lives we were told to get a degree. “Education is power,” they said, and you need that power to be successful. But here we are with our degrees feeling powerless.
Struggling to Find Your Place
So, what’s the next step? Where do we go from here? Some of us have jobs and new goals. Some of us are doing just fine. Some of us are even happy with our lives. But then, here I am. Like many others before me, I have this degree (or advanced degree in my case), and I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to utilize it. Was I warned about the many steps and struggles to finding a job? Was I warned about the state of the job market in my area? Not really. These are the things we all learned as we neared graduation. Just ask any one of my classmates. I am not alone in this feeling, and neither are you.
Blind and Working or Blind and Unemployed
This struggle goes even deeper for those of us who are blind or visually impaired. We struggle to find reliable transportation even in areas that have public transit or paratransit. We struggle to earn the respect of our employers and co-workers. We struggle with our own self-doubt. We struggle to get the reasonable accommodations that are granted to us by the Americans with Disabilities Act in the US. We struggle to even do the job some days. Some of us must work twice as hard as our normally sighted counterparts because of these struggles. Based on statistics from the National Federation of the Blind, the unemployment rate for those who are blind or visually impaired is around 62%, which further demonstrates the limitations of blindness on making a living.
The barriers to work for this population are varied as well, and what one person struggles with, another may manage well. The variances among albinism alone sometimes contribute to those feelings of imposter syndrome and self-doubt. We find ourselves thinking, “Well, Dave can drive and has a full-time job. I must be missing something obvious,” or, “Jane moved to a bigger city and she has so much independence. Why can’t I just move?” I have struggled with these feelings myself. Social media often shows us the successes of others without the ongoing fight, which can lead us to believe that others don’t struggle. Everyone struggles with something. Everyone faces a daily battle with something. The guy with albinism who has enough vision to drive may struggle with a serious lack of confidence or he may have a job that makes him feel miserable and taken for granted. The girl who lives in a bigger city may spend three hours of her time both ways on her commute to work. The important thing to remember here is that though you and your neighbor have different struggles, you both have them.
What Can You Do Today?
So, really, what’s next? We need to find ourselves now, and we need to decide what is best for us and our families as we progress toward our life goals. Start there.
What are your goals? What small goals can you set for yourself to accomplish on a daily and weekly basis? These will be your short-term goals and can include:
- Becoming more positive by finding one thing to be thankful for each day.
- Learning to tidy up more by picking up that one item on your floor or cleaning up and organizing one small shelf each day.
- Becoming more informed by reading one article, watching one video, or listening to one podcast a day.
- Becoming better at your skill or art by practicing once daily for five or ten minutes. You can add time as this becomes more of a habit.
The options are endless. The key here is to choose manageable steps that you can implement each day. Each day that you take one of those small steps, you are building toward your goal. These short-term goals are a fantastic place to start and will allow you to see immediate results. Immediate results are satisfying and will help to motivate you toward bigger and more long-term goals.
One of my favorite expressions from working with addiction is, “one day at a time.” That is how we who are suffering from imposter syndrome, overwhelming fear of failure, and lack of direction shall take our lives. Take my word for it, this one will set you on the right path if you’re feeling overwhelmed. In the meantime, I’ll be here. Feel free to reach out. You can take your life back and feel in control again.