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You Belong: How To Kick Impostor Syndrome To The Curb

Imposter Syndrome is real.

Workin' Girl

For many of us who are high achieving and trying our best to excel in our professional lives, there's often something that comes up, that if unchecked, can serve as a blockage to our success.

Before I quit my full-time job to pursue entrepreneurship and other creative endeavors, I had a comfortable and stable full-time job working in marketing. However, I remember experiencing overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and doubt about my capabilities and the work that I was doing. On paper, I had all the credentials. I graduated from Princeton with honors, interned for four years at a top media company in New York City, and was building my own podcast brand Dreams In Drive. I was fully capable, but in person I found ways to put myself down and often felt like I didn't deserve my seat in the company organizational chart in comparison to my colleagues. I envied my mostly non-white co-workers who seemed to just show up and show out, even if their output was slightly mediocre.

It was until a few years in and after doing some research did I realize those "feelings" had a name and was something many high achieving women like myself often went through. "Impostor syndrome", a term coined by American psychologists Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, and Suzanne Imes PhD in 1978, is defined as "internal experience of intellectual phoniness" by people who believe they they are not intelligent, capable, and/or creative, despite evidence of high achievement. Those suffering from it often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually uncover them as a "fraud."

It's complicated, but something that is highly prevalent -- especially in my inner circle of Black female sisterhood. While many may try to discredit it, the American Psychology Association characterizes is as "specific form of intellectual self-doubt…. [that] is generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression."

I spoke with Christine Michel Carter - a writer and marketing strategist whose work focuses on careers, Black moms, millennials in the workplace, and diversity and inclusion - about this. She shared some tips for xoNecole readers learning to navigate through impostor syndrome.

Reclaim Your Space

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Reclaiming your place and role in history is crucial. Personally, when I realized the POWER (instead of weakness) I had as one of few Black women working at my company, I started to walk into rooms with my head held up higher and more resolve to make sure I was heard and respected.

Understanding our history as Black women in the workplace is important to consider, says Christine.

"Historically, [millennial and Black women] haven't been given the same opportunities as their white male or white female counterparts. There's always that feeling in the back of their head that when they are granted opportunities, that they don't deserve those opportunities because women who looked like them historically hadn't been given those opportunities. It's difficult to realize that you might have a better education or experience present-day, but it doesn't do anything to [rewrite] our internal dialogue."

Understand The Way You Work

You also need to understand your personality type and the way you work, mentions Christine. As someone who suffers from anxiety and can become anxious if she doesn't feel prepared, Christine makes sure to ask for agendas prior to meetings so that she is "set up for success." How can you make sure to nip doubt by making sure you're prepared and make others knowledgeable of how you best operate and create good work?

According to Dr. Valerie Young, an impostor syndrome expert who identified five main subgroups of impostor syndrome sufferers, certain personality types need distinct corrective action. For example, the "superwoman" will push herself to work extremely hard in order to measure up. To combat this, it's necessary to steer away from external validation and "become more attuned to internal validation." This nurturing of inner confidence will help you "ease off the gas as you gauge how much work is reasonable."

Take Note Of Your Wins

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Keeping a record of your accomplishments is another way to remind you of your value, explains Christine. "It's nice to go back and look back at the things you've done and say, 'Wow I really contributed. I'm really a valuable team member. I'm very much deserving of having a seat at the table.'"

Don't wait until yearly reviews to reflect on how much and how well you've executed. Conduct monthly "How did I do?" meetings with yourself, or your direct supervisor, where you review projects and analyze your growth and ability to meet expectations. Include metrics and feedback if you can. You may surprise yourself on how much of a bada** you are. This also holds you accountable and ensures you aren't playing small because you don't think you can achieve.

Stay In The Now

Christine also recommends that we practice staying in the present moment. "Focus on the task at hand. Sometimes you can't worry about what will happen or has happened." Be hyper-aware of how your thoughts may be leading you to other damaging thoughts or behavior that are not conducive for growth.

Seek Help From A Professional

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Don't be afraid to get professional help. If you've tried several of these self-help tactics and still find it difficult to thrive, a licensed professional can give you tools and resources for overcoming impostor syndrome that are catered to your unique experience. If you need help finding a therapist in your area, I suggest browsing the Therapy For Back Girls Therapist Directory.

Whether you're climbing the career ladder or pursuing the entrepreneurial path, learning how to overcome impostor syndrome is pertinent. Honestly though, could you imagine a world where more Black women rose up and said, "Impostor syndrome, I rebuke thee?!" In my opinion, there's nothing more powerful as a Black woman than walking into a room and making your presence known. When we stand up for ourselves and share our stories, we're helping to impact larger conversations that face women of color such as the gender/race pay gap, maternal mortality and more.

Though it took me a while to realize how impostor syndrome was limiting my ability to live up to my potential, I was so proud of the day I built up the courage to speak up for myself and stop playing small. So much courage, I decided I was destined for a career and life much bigger than the one I was living. I resigned and decided to pursue a career and employer that was more in alignment with my purpose.

There's no permanent fix and there are days when I feel impostor syndrome creeping up, but now I know what to call it and how to dismiss it.

For more tips on learning how to deal with overcoming impostor syndrome, check out session 22 of Dr. Joy Harden Bradford's Therapy for Black Girls podcast here.

Featured image by Getty Images

Want more stories like these? Check out the xoNecole stories below:

5 PhD Students Reveal How They Combat Impostor Syndrome - Read More

'Atlanta' Actress Zazie Beetz Gets Real About Impostor Syndrome - Read More

5 Ways To Stop Self-Sabotaging Yourself - Read More

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

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