Feeling like you’re not good enough? Like you don’t belong or deserve your job or accomplishments? Or that you don’t have a future as a leader? We’re here to speak truth to you for a bit: you are more than enough.
There’s a large chance that you’ve heard about impostor syndrome before, but we’re here to speak directly to those of you who see injustice and want to make change. If not you, who? If not now, when? This article breaks down impostor syndrome, provides a few tips for how to fight it, and will hopefully leave you feeling a wave of energy and confidence to continue fighting for your values & visions of equity.
What is impostor syndrome?
According to Verywell Mind, impostor syndrome (IS) “refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be.”
In other words: you experience feeling like a phony and that at any moment you are going to be unmasked as a fraud. Some of the most common signs of impostor syndrome include: self-doubt, an inability to realistically assess your competence & skills, attributing your success to external factors, berating your performance, fearing that you won’t live up to expectations, overachieving, sabotaging your own success, and setting very challenging goals & feeling disappointed when you fall short.
Why do you experience it?
Impostor syndrome can affect anyone no matter their social status, work history, skill level, degree of expertise, etc. In fact, the International Journal of Behavioral Science estimates that roughly 70% of people will experience impostor syndrome at least once in their life. Although there is no single answer as for why we experience impostor syndrome, experts have recognized that it may have to do with personality traits, family or behavioral causes. For example, our childhood memories may have left a lasting impact and led us to internalize that in order to be loved or lovable, we need to achieve.
That said, if you identify as BIPOC you may be especially susceptible to impostor syndrome. You may have been taught or made to internalize that you need to work at least twice as hard to be half as good as your White colleagues or peers. Jolie A. Doggett wrote in her 2019 HuffPost article, “For people of color, impostor syndrome isn’t just an imaginary voice in our heads. We receive almost daily messages from society that we don’t truly belong.” She goes on to explain the feelings of otherness that occur on a daily basis for her and other BIPOC: such as being the only person of color in a space and the overall lack of representation in entertainment. “The world ― subliminally and outright ― tells us that we don’t belong, that we aren’t good enough.”
Our environment or institutionalized/systemic racism can ultimately play a major role in spurring impostor feelings. “In response to the microaggressions we experience in real life, we become our own aggressors, filling ourselves with negative internal dialogue that can result in poor physical and mental care,” Doggett shares. “With impostor syndrome, it becomes too easy to believe the lies both society and your brain tell you.”
How to navigate & fight it
As you read through these few tips, we want to encourage you that fighting against self-doubt and impostor syndrome is a process. Your mindsets will most likely not change overnight, but taking small steps towards reframing some of your thoughts will help you feel confident about you, your capabilities, and your vision.
Recognize that feelings aren’t necessarily facts.
Your feelings around being an impostor or a fraud are 100% normal, but they’re also not true. It’s sometimes easier to play the negative tape over and over in our minds that we end up forgetting that it’s just a tape — and it can be turned off. It will take time and energy, but in the end it will better equip you to handle impostor syndrome moments, rather than an impostor syndrome life.
Talk about what’s going on.
Challenge yourself by leaning into your feelings and getting to the root of it all through conversation and fellowship. Let your guard down and let others see the real you. There’s nothing wrong with you and nothing to feel ashamed about. Talk to other people (friends, family, colleagues, mentors, etc.) about how you are feeling. Having a supportive community can help you break away from the impostor feelings that are holding you back. And, chances are that you will learn that someone from your inner circle has also gone through the same thing, and may provide clarity and relief to you!
Break the negative & reframe your thoughts.
When you start to feel negative thoughts creep in, ask yourself: “Is this really true?” to try to interrupt them. Speak kindly to yourself, create a mantra you can repeat to yourself (or pull a few from our Affirmations for Equity Leaders!), focus on what you’ve learned and on your core beliefs so that the negative voices don’t end up undermining your efforts.
Chances are that if you’re feeling like an imposter, you may have some successes in your life that you are attributing to luck, rather than your abilities. Try turning that feeling into one of gratitude. Look at what you’ve accomplished! That’s your doing, with no luck needed.
Realize you are not alone.
Understand that although it can feel frustrating and discouraging, battling impostor syndrome is not uncommon. You are not alone in this. Developing the awareness around these challenges is essential in thriving and building the confidence you need to reach your goals.
If you've done all these things and still feel like your feeling of being an impostor or not good enough is holding you back, we encourage you to speak to a mental health professional who can better equip you with the support you need.
Impostor syndrome holds back justice.
As you fight against the beliefs that you are not good enough or do not belong, know that here at LEE, we will always have your back. We see you for who you are: visionary, passionate, trailblazing, hard-working, dedicated, and filled with a fervent spirit to make our world a more equitable place. Don’t let those feelings hold you back.
Find ways to step into your power as a civic leader. Keep fighting & don’t back down! Do your thing — you’ve got this.