Friday, November 6, 2009

Stanford Duck Syndrome

I so often feel like I don't belong here. Almost every day that thought crosses my mind that I shouldn't be at Stanford with all of these super-smart people. Not only are they smart, but they have all already done such cool things in life - internships with the best companies, patent applications, volunteer work, and research. AND they're articulate, social, and fit right into the physically fit, healthy-eating California lifestyle. They have already read ahead in the textbook and are able to correct the professor if he makes an error while writing on the board in class. They can ask well-worded thoughtful questions at the end of a presentation. They all seem so confident and self-assured. In short, they've got their "sh**" together. I do not have it all together!

However, there is a diagnosis for these feelings I am having. The Stanford Duck Syndrome. I look around at everyone - well-dressed, put together, and on top of their game and I feel inferior. How is it that for everyone else this stuff is effortless but for me it's such an intense struggle? The secret truth is, everyone is struggling. The image of ducks on a pond is the perfect illustration for this discrepancy between perception and reality. While ducks appear to glide easily along the surface of the water, beneath the surface they are paddling like heck.

I recently experienced this in my thermodynamics class. I have felt so intimidated all quarter. As I feverishly copy down the notes during class, trying to sort of understand where the professor is going, other students are knowledgeable and smart enough to correct him or ask really advanced questions. Then my midterm came - the one I compared to entering the ring as Rocky in my previous post. Then, faithful readers, the midterm grades came. Did I get my butt kicked by the test? No. I did really well on the midterm! - top of the class in fact. How can that be? Well, maybe I know more than I give myself credit for. Maybe the other kids don't know quite as much as I give them credit for (I give them a lot of credit!) Or maybe by the grace of God I did well on this midterm. I think all three statements are probably true, but the last one is the real reason I did well on this test.

I could launch into a whole discussion about the evils of comparing yourself to others but I'll keep it brief. My value and worth as a person cannot be found in the perceptions of others, in grades, physical fitness, or in the number of facebook friends I have (467 actually). My true worth is given to me by God in my identity as His beloved child. That He loved me so much to pay the price for my sins on the cross so that I could be forgiven is the sweetest truth, the best news that I could ever hear.

And though I'll probably still be the one duck that paddles a little crooked and struggles a little more than the other ducks, the fact that we're all paddling toward a common goal of learning and causing positive change in the world totally changes the way I see Stanford. I'm able to say "Ok, what can I learn from all of the amazing peers I have? What can they learn from me? What can we all do together to change the world? And thank you God for this amazing opportunity and phase of my life."


Parker said...

Teehee. You're a duck.

Good post, Julie. And for what it's worth, we love you, whether you swim crooked or not ;)

Julie Ann said...

It's interesting to add that the Stanford football team just beat 8th ranked Oregon, whose mascot is the Duck.

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Heather said...

I'm so glad you're still writing in this! I stopped checking after you left CR.

I'm glad that by the end of the post, you realized what an awesome person you are. Because as I read the first paragraph, I was like hmmm this IS Julie. You are super-smart. You have done super cool things in life (like living in CR for year), and you are articulate, social, funny, fit, etc etc etc. :) Basically you're super awesome. :)

Love you and we should catch up soon! :)

Anonymous said...

You made perfect sense until you started talking about how God helped you in getting a good grade. I say it was your hardwork and ability. Don't let religion get into grades at least!