Impostor Syndrome: How I’m Learning To Be A Proud Black Girl In White Spaces
Her Voice

Impostor Syndrome: How I’m Learning To Be A Proud Black Girl In White Spaces

Show me a person that's winning at life.

They have an amazing career, lots of money in the bank, great family and friends, and a gym membership they actually use. Show me that person and I will show you someone that has, at one time or another, doubted themselves and their abilities. If they haven't, I'd like to ask what their secret is because that kind of self-belief is a gift I do not possess.

I have made room for doubt in my life and time and time again, grant it invitation despite the fact that it torments and violates me every time I allow it to come in. It's a feeling that a lot of black women have encountered and most have not yet discovered how to overcome. It's a phenomenon known by no other name than Impostor Syndrome.

I would describe Impostor Syndrome as being accused of burgling your own house. You know you belong there. Your belongings are the receipts for all the hard work you've put in to buy this house you call your home, but nobody's there to corroborate your story and the neighbors really don't care.

It is an embarrassing, demeaning, and futile exchange that wears you down to the point that you start believing they are right. Suddenly, when you look around, things don't seem so familiar.

And you do so all the while, never realising your accuser is really you. That, to me, is Imposter Syndrome.

About a year ago, I started to come to the realization that something was really wrong with me.

On the outside, I had just embarked on an amazing advertising career; it was something I'd studied for and dreamed about. I had also taken unpaid internships (like many others) in the hope of differentiating myself from that vast competition surrounding me and finally, my efforts were paying off. Working on campaigns for the likes of Disney, Marie Claire, and Porsche were everything I had wanted. And yet, I found myself feeling, hands-down, the most anxious, nervous, and fearful I have ever been in my entire life.

This led to me second-guessing every decision I made, reverting into myself for fear of being singled out or ridiculed for saying something stupid, and procrastinating in a state of analysis paralysis, which isn't great when you have sold yourself on your efficiency, ability to share ideas, and being a team player.

These issues weren't just limited to my work but also my ability to make friends or at least friendly acquaintances in this new, much longed-for work environment. I don't care what anyone says, if you are working for eight hours a day, you need to like, or at least feel comfortable, with your team. I did make some amazing friends. But even then, I found myself wondering when the penny would drop for them – monologues of situational scenarios like, don't hang around with her, whatever she has could be contagious, we need to hang around with the people we want to be like and emulate ran rampant in my mind.

Thoughts of I'm notgood enough and I don't know enough are even louder.

I plodded through my initial six-month contract and even the excitement of it being extended didn't cure my feelings of just not being good enough or that, sooner or later, people would find that out.

It took me a minute, but when I finally found the name for my ailment, I was taking the first steps to building up my sense of self and getting my power back. As previously mentioned, Google taught me that I was suffering from the rather debilitating Impostor Syndrome.

My self-diagnosis was affirmed by the transparency from accomplished celebrities like Viola Davis speaking on the subject and raising awareness around an issue that touches many people to varying degrees.

One article I read broke Impostor Syndrome down into three familiar areas: persistence, avoidance, and garnering approval. From the shared adage that "black people must work twice as hard. Harder than our white counterparts" to going to extreme lengths to be validated – Impostor Syndrome is reflective of the WOC experience in predominantly white spaces.

I won't say I have all, or even any, of the answers but what I will say is there is hope. Like many illnesses, it's about the prevention and not the cure, as I don't believe there is one for Impostor Syndrome.

However, I would like to share some of the things that have helped me overcome BIS, or at least better manage my feelings and help me feel pride to establish ownership of the spaces I occupy:

1. Appreciate The Big And Small Wins

I practice self-gratification every time I achieve something or generally get sh*t done. I own that moment and tick it off my list.

2. Focus On Representation Matters

I look at great examples around me, be it family and friends or public figures and celebrities. People that are unapologetically themselves, even if it only looks like that from the outside. I look at them not from a place of wanting to be them, but of examples of it can be done. Talent comes in all shapes, colors, and sizes, and the route to these successes may not be well-worn or traditional, but they are there.

3. Follow the Growth Mentality

Looking at each scenario, problem, or win, and working out what I can take from it has helped my mental substantially. Seeking knowledge from the experiences that happen to me by asking the question: what could I do differently next time or how can I build on my successes? This is a great way to evaluate a situation without unnecessary dwelling and a way to move on.

There is no quick fix to overcoming Impostor Syndrome. As black women in the form of educators, creatives, entrepreneurs, doctors will all tell you, they have struggled one time or another with feeling like enough or believing they have earned the success that has come to them. Despite the light that shines on us, we doubt ourselves. We believe that we are frauds.

Even though that's further from the truth.

The first step to becoming empowered by your seat at the table is knowing that you've earned a right to be there. To sit, to eat, to exist. Remind yourself that you are everything, you are worthy, and your existence and your presence in your respective industries and on this planet are valid. It's about owning your light and refusing to let it dim for anyone - even you. The simple act of being is all the confirmation needed.

Nowadays, when I catch myself asking me if I deserve the life I've been blessed with, I remind myself of the privilege it is for me to be me. You got this Queen.

We all got this.

How do you overcome Impostor Syndrome?

*Article Orginally Posted on The Other Box

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