When I came up with the concept for this blog post, I was going to write about Imposter Syndrome, how it affects my life, and write an update to this post from a few years ago. A few days later, two different people sent me this article about Imposter Syndrome from Harvard Business Review (HBR) and WHEW….a word. Before you read this, I highly recommend reading that because truly, it made it all make sense.
As they say in the article, I’m not suffering from Imposter Syndrome. Rather, I feel the effects of constantly being gaslit by my surroundings. I’m not going to paraphrase the article because it’s so good and you should read it. As a woman, especially a woman of color, it’s hard to think about being in the workplace again. It is hard. Even with this blog, I’m constantly battering a barrage of thoughts about am I good enough? Is this worth it? Will I grow?
My experience with what I’ve always thought was Imposter Syndrome is clouded because I’ve never been comparing myself to myself. Instead, I compared myself to systems of white supremacy. When the beauty standard is blonde hair and blue eyes, I will never look like that. It’s an unattainable standard. I compared my body to a standard that isn’t achievable even if I tortured myself. It took a long time for me to understand that and I’m still working through it, especially working in social media. Part of the work I’ve done to help myself is diversifying my feeds, and reminding myself that beauty standards are BS.
When it comes to a traditional workplace, the idea of returning scares me. Working in politics, it’s definitely a man’s world. I’ve been talked over, had my ideas repeated verbatim, and talked down to by my peers more times than I can count. Over time, this took its toll on me. I had to really rely on my mentors and friends to recognize that I’m good at what I do and it’s not about me. My parents always told me I have to work twice as hard to get half as far. This wears down on your psyche, but I’m not going to say they were wrong. If anything, they lowballed it.
I worked three or four times as hard to get to where I am. I earned many opportunities by purely putting myself out there and just doing the world. Yet, I saw people the same age get further time and time again. I’ve always wondered why or how I could do better and to be honest, there’s not one thing I can do differently. In a game like politics, it’s cutthroat. That’s just part of the game and it’s up to me to stick with it, but also help change, mentor, and encourage the next generation of women coming up behind me.
The knowledge that I probably won’t be a legend is hard for me when I want to inherently live up to the legacies left by my parents. They were amazing doctors and leave behind legacies of patients, colleagues, and more, but that’s probably not my path. I’ve learned that I have to stop comparing myself to them. It’s hard. It’s really freaking hard. At the end of the day, I must make my own path that is honest to who I am and who I want to be. It won’t look like theirs and that’s okay. What I want to do is help other women, especially women of color, alleviate themselves from the thing we call Imposter Syndrome. It’s not that and it requires a constant set of support. So to all of my women:
We are meant to be at the tables. No matter what you’re told, how often overlooked, or talked over. You worked your ass off to get to where you are. It’s okay if you’re not confident in knowing that just yet, but know that you do belong. We got this together.
Imposter syndrome is a symptom of a larger problem. At the core, we all internalize and have to work through the conditioning that society places upon us. If we want to create a society where “imposter syndrome” isn’t a thing, we have to understand its roots. We must acknowledge that half of our society has to do an unhealthy amount of emotional and physical labor just to be seen at a level playing field. If not, there is no equity. The path forward is one where we have to work together, but the first step is acknowledging the problem. To my women, I got you, we got this. If you ever need support, drop me a line and I’ll be your hype man.
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