One thing I’ve learned about myself and my transfer class is that we are really good at following instructions. We listened to perceived authority on how to get into the mythical land of Haas, did what we were told, and made it. So why do so many of us feel like imposters?

In my first week of classes, I learned that one of the biggest complaints employers have about Gen Z is that we don’t take initiative, that we have to be parented. Hearing that affected me deeply. I realized that I, overcome with imposter syndrome, had been frantically seeking someone who could tell me the ten steps to being good enough, and seeing authority in anyone who I perceived as more confident than I am. I shared this as a confession to a group of friends, and was surprised to hear that others felt the same way – all of them, actually. What a relief, I thought. We’re all imposters together!

I remember an email I received this past summer, before I had even started classes. It was sent to my incoming transfer class, inviting us to educate other CC students on how we got into Haas. How should I know? I thought, I have no idea what I’m doing. Then I reflected back to when I was in community college, attending a panel just like this one. I clung to every word those transfer students had said. I was convinced of their authority, desperately trying to parse the formula for success from their words. I couldn’t. Yet now I’m here.

Is it possible, then, that there is no true authority? Could it be that no one has it all figured out? Have I said something to someone that they perceived as authority? Did it help them? Did my words overrule their intuition? If I sit with myself, my desires, and fears of fraudulence, can I become my own authority? When am I going to start living my life? When am I going to stop asking other people how to get there? Now, I thought. Right now.

In sharing this, I am not suggesting that any of us stop asking questions. We are, after all, “Students Always”, aiming to “Question the Status Quo.” Instead, I believe that each of us can think critically about the answers we are given, find what resonates with us, and siphon the tools we need to form our own conclusions. We can respect and revere our greatest mentors while still recognizing that they too have felt deep insecurity in their lifetimes. Whether we go with our gut or defer to another’s judgment, we are, in every moment, making choices. This is our right. We can all choose our own path. We have authority on that.

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