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We Need to Talk About Black Imposter Syndrome

Estimated reading time ~ 3 min
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When you think about Imposter Syndrome, you may think of high-achievers that lack self confidence in certain areas of their life. But the reality is, Imposter Syndrome isn’t just for high-achievers – it affects all types of people in different ways. A working mother that may feel she isn’t doing enough for her children, or a C-Suite executive may feel like their position can be taken away at any moment. These thoughts and feelings are most times completely unfounded on your actual qualifications or the work produced. For minorities, our identities add another layer of complexity to the effects of Imposter Syndrome. I have always been told that in order to earn the position I want, I have to work 10x harder and have more education than my peers. What happens when we accomplish our goals, or when we finally get our dream job and we still don’t feel like we have earned it?

Being in a profession where you don’t see a lot of people that look like you consistently can be mentally damaging – especially if you do not take proper steps to maintain your esteem in the workplace. Leadership roles in many corporations do not represent the society we live in, it is still very white. Moreover, the leaders that make decisions for employees may not always have the needs of all cultures in mind. With all these factors at play, it may be hard for an employee of color to fit into workplace culture. Performance evaluations can be crippling because while you are a high achiever excelling past your coworkers, many Black people can still be faced with their skills and accomplishments not being enough. If we are not one of the best, we certainly can’t advance. These are mental disparages that white employees do not have to experience.

Regardless of where you are on the corporate ladder, Imposter Syndrome will come up. It’s hard to avoid it all together because we are human, but there are things we can do to help maintain a healthy mental state in the workplace.

Toot Your Own Horn

Of course, we want to be humble but there is nothing wrong with celebrating your own accomplishments. Even the small wins like meeting a tight deadline, running a project at work for the first time, or even celebrating a one-year anniversary with a company. The more our work matters to ourselves, the more that energy will eventually work its way into the office. Confidence can be infectious and that is a great way to spread some good vibes, but being intentional in sharing your accomplishments can improve your own self-esteem and help you stand out in the workplace.

Become Your Own Version of a Leader

You may not completely fit in with the office culture but you can still be a leader in the workplace. You could make time to share personal skills with your other coworkers or offer mentorship to new colleagues who have just joined the company. Volunteering information is also a great way to add value. Create office events that fit your style and how you like to socialize. If the annual office golf tournament doesn’t really get you excited, try suggesting something outside of what the office norm is. This involvement will show you care about being a part of their team and are willing to collaborate with them in settings that make you feel comfortable.

Get a Support Group Together

When it comes to Imposter Syndrome, you are more than likely not the only one feeling the way you feel. Uncovering those in the workplace with the same sentiment as you might be difficult. A recommendation would be to try to find one person at your office that you can confide in. The idea of a “work bestie” can come across as just trendy but can make a huge difference for workplace retention and positive workplace culture. If there is no one in the office that is relatable, you can always look for outside support. Connect with other minority professionals that work for other companies. Imposter Syndrome hits all of us – even if a person may not work directly with you, they may still resonate with you. Network to find your tribe and work through things together. You will soon find you are not the only one struggling with establishing their value in their work.

There is no doubt that Imposter Syndrome is real, especially for Black professionals. Despite the feeling of aloneness, there are ways to build your own space of safety and comfort. It’s important to remember that you ARE good enough and work to remind yourself of that.

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