When telling people I am an actuarial science major I usually get the “Oh so you’re really smart.” I always respond with “Oh no, not really!”
One day I realized that my response was absurd. If people thought I was smart, why am I telling them I’m not right away? Am I not convinced myself that I am smart enough? Exactly. Throughout my career of an aspiring actuary, I have doubted whether or not I am smart enough to be doing actuarial work. Every class I think, “I shouldn’t be here, everyone else here is smarter than I am, they will get that job before I do, etc.” This kind of self-doubt scares people out of their dreams everyday. Being proactive, I saw a TED Talk by Amy Cuddy discussing how the way we feel about ourselves is directly reflected in our body language. She tests her theory of reversing the equation by having students stand in either a “high-power pose” or a “low-power pose” for two minutes and evaluate their performance in activities like an interview, giving a speech, or taking an exam. She found that if you stand in a high-power pose – you are more likely to perform well on a test, in an interview, etc. than those in a low-power pose. I took this talk to heart. I was a few days away from taking Exam P at the time, and I stood in a power pose for two minutes each day including the day of the test. I felt more confident going into the test. Though it may seem like a silly tactic, it will help put you in the right mindset – though it won’t make you perform well if you are completely unprepared. I went into the test feeling more confident, my anxiety level was down, and I was calmer which made my head clearer during the exam.
Amy talks about something called “fake it until you make it”. She explains a time in her life when she felt as though she didn’t deserve to be where she was, or even belong there. She was in a teaching position and was deathly scared of it. But she decided to fake it until she made it. She pretended as though this was easy for her and that she knew what she was doing. More importantly, that she deserved to be there. After so long of pretending, she started believing it. She convinced everyone around her, including herself, that she was right where she belonged. I have gone through the same process. I act as though I am smart enough to be in the classes that I am, and that I am at the same level as my classmates. Pretty soon my scores started rising on tests. I felt more confident raising my hand in class, rather than embarrassed that I didn’t know the answer. I can now confidently answer the dreaded “Oh so you’re really smart,” with a “Yes, I am.”