Guest Essay: Confusion Mitigation

By Anushka Kalyan
High school student in Granite Bay, CA
July 6, 2023

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog! So, hi again, I’m Anushka, I’m a high school student in Placer County. I just came back from having fun with my family in India for summer vacation a few days ago. Since I enjoy being engaged in my community, I recently applied to serve on the Placer County Youth Commission (PCYC), an advisory group that advises the Placer County Board on issues pertinent to the younger generation. A few days ago, I opened my phone to see a response from PCYC. Excitedly I viewed the email… and … (cue suspenseful music) … I saw A REJECTION?!?! But wait, that couldn’t be right. I volunteer, I help my community, what could have been the issue? I racked my brain, and I was confused as to what I did wrong.

So, I did what any normal teenager would do and doom-stalked my peers on LinkedIn. I scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled, looking as lists of ultra-exclusive programs touting my friends’ accomplishments made me feel like mine paled in comparison. Should I have had fun with my family in India at this time? Ignoring my family’s calls to let me know that breakfast was ready, I questioned the ways I have wasted time, even by sleeping for too long! I would never measure up to my frame of success. I thought about how I felt like an imposter in many of the spaces I occupy, including many of the ECOS Committee meetings that I participate in.

Now upon reflection, I see the problem with my thinking, and I hope that you do too. It’s an issue that we as an entire youth body are suffering from: We surround ourselves with people who seem to outperform us to the extent that we fail to realize how valuable we ourselves are. While it’s certainly important that we put ourselves in challenging situations, it’s important that we don’t become consumed with a feeling of inadequacy if we don’t succeed or if there is a whole lot to learn.

I love attending ECOS Committee meetings. One of my favorite experiences is being on the Sacramento Earth Day Planning Committee and learning about all the efforts that go behind uplifting our city at such a large scale. At these meetings I can gain knowledge and exposure for other real-world applications. However, there’s a LOT that I don’t understand that goes down during these meetings. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT a lot. Although I try to make the most sense of the intricate details that are explained regarding funding measures or new scientific initiatives in local regions, a lot of the times, I don’t really know the full picture of what’s going on. It hasn’t sunk in (yet), but what I and other peers like myself need to understand is that that is completely ok. We students come from educational settings that are tailored to a student’s needs and sometimes crave a faster-paced environment (pun intended). However, when we are exposed to such scenarios where professionals collaborate to solve issues that they specialize in, it is natural to perhaps feel intimidated or inadequate. I know I certainly do.

Psychology Today writes in an article from June 7, 2022 that feelings of inadequacy are more connected to self-esteem issues rather than actual performance abilities. Although it may seem that lack of knowledge causes all fingers to point to students like myself (which in part, it does), we must also realize that without the intense comparing and competition that goes on, discouraging thoughts would most likely not arise. But we play it off. We’re cool about it! We are all cool about it. We pretend like we understand everything that’s going on around us when in reality we feel as if we are playing catch-up in a game that doesn’t (and rightfully shouldn’t) wait for us to catch-up. When we see our peers seemingly thrive in situations that confuse us, we dig ourselves an even deeper hole of discouragement.

From what I see at ECOS, our work in the environmental sphere is never done. We all have so much to learn from each other, with some members knowledgeable in one area, and others knowledgeable in another area. I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to learn. However, I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one experiencing feelings of inadequacy as a member of the youth and as an ECOS participant in general. Let’s explore this a little bit. According to the Harvard Business Review, around a third of young people chronically suffer from impostor syndrome, the feeling that one’s abilities will never measure up and that their achievements are somehow mistakes. What’s more, around 70% of other people are more likely to experience this at some point in their lives. I hope I don’t speak incorrectly on the behalf of others, but almost all of us are going through the same thing or have been in similar situations. We don’t all know what we’re doing even though it might seem like others have got it going on all the time. But in reality, we’re just doing the best we can. And that’s ok!

I appreciate that this ECOS blog and advocacy in general allow me to use my voice. As a balance to putting myself in challenging situations, I gravitate toward writing and speaking — where the only voice swimming around in my head, right or wrong, is mine. It’s important to switch between situations where we are intellectually challenged and situations where we can just hear ourselves out, increase our self-confidence, and make peace with the impostor living in our psyches.

If there are any other high schoolers reading this: I know we all want to be the next Einstein (which could be another blog topic in of itself). A first step is to consistently put ourselves in situations where we don’t know as much as others, and to participate as much as we can. These situations can be intimidating, especially if we stay quiet. Instead, we must try to be comfortable taking up space, letting our voices be heard, and asking questions. This signals to others that we are ready to learn. By acting in this way, we make some impression in the world, truly gain knowledge, and maintain our mental health. On the other hand, it’s summer now – a time to let our minds relax. It’s healthy and wonderful to challenge ourselves, but if we do it non-stop, we are going to completely fizzle out. And remember to catch up on some sleep!

Obviously, I don’t have all the answers, but I will continue to ask questions. To the Placer County Youth Commission, thank you for the rejection! You taught me to reframe why I do what I do; to be proactive about learning; and not to wallow in a black hole of confusion. And because of that, I am motivated for a better future!

The Dragon-Powered School Bus

The Dragon-Powered School Bus: A Courageous Fight to Clean the Air Kindle Edition

Henry loves showing Miss Leona his Dragon-Style Battle Cards. But asthma attacks are keeping him out of school. Is the smoke from her bus making it worse? They’ll teach others about the benefits of clean electric buses, and create positive change for the health of their community. But you have to believe…

This heart-warming story will help 2nd-4th graders learn about asthma, how EVs and renewable energy can help the environment, and that caring, committed people can change the world.

Buy now on Amazon here.

Youth Action Alert: Community Benefits Agreement Ordinance 5/9

Date & Time: TOMORROW May 9, 2023 06:00 PM in Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Location: via Zoom, register here

Sacramento Investment Without Displacement (SIWD) is a coalition of social justice organizations, neighborhood associations, labor groups, residents, and community partners organized to support building healthy communities and affordable housing, preserving cultural traditions, and the stability of neighborhoods impacted by big developments. You’re invited to a youth action alert session to learn how to make your voice heard on behalf of your community. We will share more about the CBAO background, SIWD’s process, and why the youth voice is so important. We’ll also do a letter-writing workshop to help you submit your thoughts to the City by the May 16th Deadline.

The first 10 youth registrants will receive $20 Door Dash gift cards to support with dinner for the evening**. ** must be a youth (age 13-24), must be in attendance, and must live in the City of Sacramento to qualify.

You can learn more about our stance here:

Get a head start and download the letter template here:

Walk On The Wildside 5/20

This free event celebrates International Migratory Bird Day and highlights local efforts in wildlife conservation and protecting and restoring native Central Valley habitat. Visitors can the miles of trails, or enjoy tours of restored wetlands and oak forests on Regional San’s Bufferlands. Throughout the day, visitors can get up close and personal with wild animals, listen to some great folk music, and check out conservation exhibits.

Highlights of the event:

  • Wild animal presentations by Wild Things, Inc., a non-profit wild animal rescue
  • Live folk music
  • Children’s puppet show by Jason Adair
  • Guided and self-guided tours of wetlands and riparian forests
  • Wildlife viewing including one of the largest heron/egret rookeries in the County Conservation exhibitors
  • Children’s activity center, games and prizes hosted by local Girl Scouts
  • Food vendors
  • Event and Parking are FREE!

Wild animals will be on display and also within the hiking trails – No pets please.


Take I-5 or Highway 99 south from Sacramento. Exit at Cosumnes River Blvd. Take Cosumnes River Blvd west to Freeport Blvd. Take Freeport Blvd south, past the golf course and the small town of Freeport. Turn left at signs opposite Cliff’s Marina (8651 River Rd, Sacramento, CA 95832). Follow signs to parking area.

Click here for more info.

ECOS Letter to City of Sacramento re Youth and Climate

On July 19, 2022, ECOS submitted a letter to the City of Sacramento regarding Agenda Item 26, the Sacramento Children and Youth Health and Safety Act.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. In the Council’s deliberations on a possible Sacramento Children’s Fund for children and youth, ECOS urges you to consider directly linking youth mental health and climate change in the proposed uses and goals of the Children’s Fund. Within this framework, it would be reasonable to use funding for parks and walks and bikeways to school, in service of a healthy environment, in addition to the social service and career counseling uses noted in the staff report.

Click here to view the letter in PDF.

New Voices for the Environment: ECOS Board Meeting, July 27

Tuesday July 27, 2021 @ 6:00 pm – 7:45 pm

Please join us for an ECOS Board meeting featuring presentations by three new voices for the environment:

Caring for our Watersheds in California competition winner Rory Pilling on the intersection of environmental and social justice: protection of waterways and the proposed “Right to Rest Act” for homeless to reside in the city.

CA state legislative intern Quincy Stivers on her new CEQA Handbook, written for ECOS: what is CEQA, how environmental documents are organized, how to review these documents, and how you can get involved.

Architect May Lin Chang AIA LEED AP on building standards to meet the challenge of climate change: how carbon can be reduced in building materials and operations; and standards that should be implemented now.

About the ECOS Board of Directors Meetings

Free and open to the public! Join ECOS on our mission to achieve regional and community sustainability and a healthy environment for existing and future residents. Come to one of our ECOS Board of Directors meetings! These meetings are a great place to network with fellow environmentalists and to keep up with the latest local environmental successes and challenges. Mark your calendar: ECOS Board of Directors meets on the fourth Tuesday of every other month (odd-numbered months). You do not need to be a member of ECOS to attend. Come see what we have been up to!

Held Virtually

Below is the information for participating in the meeting.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 818 6537 7865
One tap mobile
+16699006833,,81865377865# US (San Jose)
+13462487799,,81865377865# US (Houston)

Dial by your location
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Germantown)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Meeting ID: 818 6537 7865
Find your local number:

Featured photo by Belle Co from Pexels