An Interesting Burden of Success | Malik Johnson | TEDxHoodCollege | Summary and Q&A

September 22, 2023
TEDx Talks
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An Interesting Burden of Success | Malik Johnson | TEDxHoodCollege

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In this TEDx talk, Malik Johnson discusses his experience as a first-generation college student and the challenges that come with it. He shares how he struggled with imposter syndrome and the lack of support and guidance, which affected his academic performance. Malik emphasizes the need for better resources and support systems for first-generation students, as well as the importance of professors and administrators understanding and accommodating different learning styles. He also gives helpful tips for students to develop a support system and prioritize their own well-being.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is imposter syndrome?

Imposter syndrome refers to the feeling of inadequacy, doubt, and the inability to internalize one's accomplishments, despite evidence of success. It is a common experience among first-generation college students who may question their own abilities and whether they truly deserve their achievements.

Q: How did Malik struggle with imposter syndrome?

Malik shares that even though he achieved good grades and got accepted into multiple colleges, he still felt unworthy and doubted himself. He constantly questioned whether he deserved the opportunities he had received and felt like he was pretending to be something he wasn't.

Q: What challenges did Malik face as a first-generation college student?

Malik faced various challenges as a first-generation student, including a lack of support and guidance. He didn't have anyone to help him fill out financial aid forms or guide him in choosing a major. He also had to balance work and academics, resulting in exhaustion and a low GPA. Additionally, he felt the pressure to meet the expectations of his family and prove himself.

Q: How did Malik's family respond to his struggles?

Malik's family, particularly his mother, didn't fully understand the challenges he was facing as a first-generation college student. Instead of providing support and understanding, they often pointed out his mistakes or what he did wrong, which further contributed to his imposter syndrome.

Q: What coping mechanisms do first-generation students use to deal with stress?

First-generation students often resort to various coping mechanisms to deal with the stress they face. Some may turn to unhealthy habits like overeating or substance abuse, while others may engage in casual sexual relationships as a temporary escape. These coping mechanisms are used as ways to distract from the challenges they encounter and temporarily alleviate stress.

Q: What can professors do to support first-generation students?

Professors should recognize that not all students learn the same way and should adapt their teaching styles accordingly. Instead of relying solely on lectures, they can make the material more interactive and engaging. They should be open to providing additional resources and support, as well as considering diverse learning styles and experiences. Creating a nurturing and inclusive classroom environment can greatly benefit first-generation students.

Q: How can administrators better support first-generation students?

Administrators need to pay attention to the specific needs of first-generation students and provide better resources accordingly. This includes enhanced academic advising, career services, and success coaching. Increased funding should also be allocated to support the diverse needs of these students and ensure their success and well-being.

Q: What advice does Malik give to first-generation students?

Malik advises first-generation students to build a strong support system, which may include professors, department heads, or friends who understand their experiences. He also recommends being selective in who they share their struggles with, as not everyone will provide the support they need. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of self-care and prioritizing one's own well-being.

Q: How has Malik's experience shaped his mindset?

Despite the challenges he faced, Malik became stronger and learned to think differently as a result of his first-generation college journey. He values his mindset and encourages others to have honest conversations and not be afraid to ask for help. He believes that experiencing and addressing these challenges can lead to personal growth and a greater appreciation for oneself.


Malik's talk sheds light on the challenges faced by first-generation college students and the impact of imposter syndrome on their academic journey. It emphasizes the need for better resources, support systems, and accommodations for diverse learning styles. Additionally, it highlights the importance of students developing a support system and prioritizing their own well-being. The talk encourages open conversations about these issues and emphasizes the strength and resilience that can be developed through overcoming challenges.

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