Dear Black Girl, Your Imposter Syndrome is Valid
The 5 Affirmations You Need To Navigate The Workplace
“It doesn’t go away, that feeling that you shouldn’t take me that seriously...we all have doubts in our abilities, about our power and what that power is. If I’m giving people hope then that is a responsibility, so I have to make sure that I am accountable.”
- Michelle Obama
It is no mystery that women of color, especially Black and Latinx women, experience hardships in every aspect of life and the workplace is no exception. Whether we're being told as children that our hair isn't deemed beautiful until it is treated by heat, or being told we're unfit for an opportunity because we speak with an accent, to constantly being criticized, sexualized, and overlooked by society, there seems to be no room to simply exist as a woman.
This all leads to an ongoing feeling of otherness. A feeling that is only intensified in the workplace/university where, too often, we may be the only person of color present. These feelings of self-doubt and insecurity begin at an early age, and prove to be detrimental throughout the course of our lives. Whether we hold ourselves back from pursuing an opportunity, or fear speaking up when we are being lowballed or even bullied, this all ties back to those early stages of being depicted as problematic, unassimilated, and unworthy. The hard hitting truth is that Black and Brown women are confined to a space of "otherness," and it is exhausting.
It's loud and it's clear, we receive almost daily messages from society telling us that we truly don’t belong! But, dear Black girl, I am here to tell you today that this is all a lie and you deserve your seat at the table just as much as everyone else.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
In an article published by Medium, Maryville University associate professor of strategic communication and leadership Dr. Leilani Carver-Madalon defines impostor syndrome as the experience of someone who “feels like a fraud, intellectually and/or professionally. People who are experiencing imposter syndrome feel like they are not good enough, like they don’t belong and/or that they are a fraud, and it is only a matter of time before they will be found out.” Further research has indicated that impostor feelings are not limited to women, and that they interact with racial discrimination to particularly affect people of color. “Imposter syndrome limits people because they never feel like they are truly successful. Underneath the façade there is often a lack of confidence,” Carver-Madalon continues, adding that another possible downside is that impostor syndrome may prevent people from acting on their ambitions — applying for the “safe job” rather than the dream job — and they may regret that decision in the future.
Imposter syndrome manifests itself as the feeling that you don’t belong here, wherever “here” is for you: the office, your friend group, the classroom or the boardroom. It doesn’t matter how qualified you are, how much experience you have or how much reassurance and positive feedback you may receive. With imposter syndrome, you just can’t shake the idea that you’re not as capable as others may believe you are and therefore you’re doomed for failure
Why do Black Women Experience Imposter Syndrome The Most?
Black women are particularly vulnerable to impostor syndrome, both in the workplace and in day-to-day interactions because we are fed the idea that we don't belong. This feeling of otherness is a common occurrence across most of our interactions. It happens in stores when we’re followed around by security while shopping. It’s echoed by inadequate leaders and the people who support them. It occurs every time we turn on the TV and see Black people brutalized at the hands of those hired to protect us, with no consequences. Whenever we open a text book or watch a movie and don’t see anyone who looks like us doing anything besides being a sidekick, or a martyr, we're reminded that we only serve one dimensional purpose. The world ― subliminally and outright ― tells us that we don’t belong, that we aren’t good enough, and that we most likely will never amount to anything.
“Women, women of colour, especially black women, as well as the LGBTQ community are most at risk,” says Brian Daniel Norton, a psychotherapist and executive coach in New York. “When you experience systemic oppression or are directly or indirectly told your whole life that you are less-than or underserving of success and you begin to achieve things in a way that goes against a long-standing narrative in the mind, imposter syndrome will occur.”
Recent studies prove a racialized component to impostor syndrome, noting that experiences with racial discrimination, combating negative racial stereotypes about intellectual inferiority, and underrepresentation may cause high-achieving Black people to feel like impostors despite impressive resumes.
The 5 Affirmations You Need To Succeed:
Although I haven’t worked in corporate America for much more than a year, I still remember the feeling I used to have at my internships, and university classrooms. No matter how well I did, I always felt that I wasn’t good enough for whatever task I was doing. I don't come from a pedigree, and I absolutely do not come from any form of wealth (if you've read my previous story, My Playlist Guide for Your Inner Girl Boss, then you know I was brought up in a shelter). I'm just a hard-working girl who's figuring out how to navigate this world. And, in doing so i've learned a thing or two about how to stand up in the face of adversity and make shit happen. Period.
If you find yourself questioning your abilities, feeling like an outcast, struggling to find your voice, and being riddled with anxiety when it comes to simply showing up and claiming what you deserve, then here are 5 affirmations that will bring you comfort.
1. I am equipped with the knowledge, skills, and strength that I need because I am a capable woman.
Whether you believe in the Universe, God, or some other power, they've already deposited everything you need within you. Remember, race and gender are social constructs and they do not define who you are. Your talents, ideas, and skills are unique to you and that is your superpower!
2. I am prepared to tackle any obstacle that comes my way.
Remember, you are not alone. Lean on your community, reach out to your friends, and speak up when the burden gets heavy. You have the dexterity and the resources to overcome anything that gets in your way, you've just got to put your mind to it.
3. My thoughts, ideas, and opinions hold weight and have value to others
Read that again sis. Whether you're on a zoom call with your colleagues, or in the room with CEO's, investors, and shareholders your opinion matters. Your thoughts matter. Your life matters. You are brilliant and the world needs your genius.
4. I have earned my seat at the table.
You've worked hard! You've maybe worked harder than most the people around you. And look at you! You're at that university! You're at that dream job! You're booked and busy! You've earned that seat at the table and now its time to clap for yourself. Take a moment and give thanks for all that you've done and for all them is manifesting before you. You deserve it, and I am so proud of you.
5. I am doing my best.
Baby, thats all you can do! Show up each and everyday and put your best foot forward. Some days will be hard, but what matters is that you are trying, and that is the bravest, boldest thing you can do.