Recently, a friend asked me to help her decide if she should apply for a new job. The description of the job read like it was perfectly designed for her and she was very excited about the opportunity. When I asked why she was unsure, she said “I don’t meet the qualifications in the last two bullet point”. I took another look and noticed that the last two bullets were listed as “Desired but Not Required.” She met or exceed the qualifications in the dozen other bullet points. So, in a thinly veiled attempt to help her see that she’d make a great candidate for the position, I asked her to walk me through her qualifications for each of the bullet points. After reviewing her qualifications together, she applied for the position. She has an interview next week.
The conversation reminded of how often high-achieving Black women we fail to give ourselves credit for the amazing things we’ve done but can easily point out the places where we fall short. This is Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter syndrome is when we find it difficult to internalize our success or even view ourselves as unworthy of success. It’s the thing that made my friend anxious to apply for an amazing job she was more than qualified for. It’s the thing that makes us feel unworthy of success. Imposter Syndrome makes us feel like we must have just gotten lucky instead having achieved success through hard work. Imposter syndrome is a lie…
While talking with my friend about her situation, I noted some tips that are useful in combatting Imposter Syndrome that I’d like to share:
- Get Support. A support system is essential to combat feelings of inadequacy or fraudulence. Wise mentors help us develop in areas of weakness and celebrate our strengths. Family helps us remember that we are so much more than the status of our job. Supportive colleagues encourage us to focus on simply doing our best. Sister-friends helps us stay encouraged and celebrate our accomplishments with us. Be careful to graciously accept the support and encouragement when it’s offered and assume it is genuine. After all, you really are worth it so why wouldn’t it be genuine?
- Count Your Accomplishments. Imposter Syndrome is often a function of success. Women who have achieved at high levels may be less likely to internalize their success and more likely to think of all they have yet to achieve. But combatting Imposter Syndrome requires us to work toward achieving new goals while not losing sight of successes we’ve already experienced. After all, our past successes prepare us for what’s coming next. When feelings of inadequacy creep up, try writing a list of several things you’ve done that made you proud of yourself. Read the list aloud several times to help internalize your accomplishments. It’s easier to see yourself as worthy of success when you’re reminded of the places where you have already succeeded.
- Try New Things…And Try Again. Sometimes when we try new things, we experience failure. If framed as a learning experience, not as a tragedy, our failures can propel us forward. They create opportunities to learn about ourselves, gain resilience, and try again…or try something new.
Being open to trying new things provides space to challenge ourselves and gain confidence in our ability to adapt and learn when facing the unknown. These are essential life skills that happen to also combat Imposter Syndrome. So often, we’re so focused on getting the exact job that most aligns with the knowledge we gained in our field of study, we forget about these and other transferable skills we’ve gained as well. Internalizing our own brilliance and getting past feelings of unworthiness is easier when we know that although new challenges will surely come our way, we are equipped to work our way through them because we’ve done it many times before.
I know that Imposter Syndrome and the lie that we’re not good enough, worthy, and 100% capable of achieving the success we seek has plagued many women in the CiteaSista community. How has it shown up in your life? What have you done to combat these feelings and debunk the lie? Let’s talk about it!