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The Chronicles of an Imposter

Our beliefs and values are fundamental to the type of results we create for ourselves. Self-awareness and self-acceptance are key elements to creating your own happiness. Happiness relying on anybody other than yourself is only temporary. I was once told that if you live for people’s acceptance you will die from their rejection. There is emotional damage done to young BAME women when they can not be themselves and are made to feel like they need to edit who they are in order to be accepted.

I remember when I first heard the term ‘Imposter syndrome’ being used a few years ago during my undergrad. I had no idea what the term meant or how it felt. How can you feel like an imposter in your own body and environment?, the concept just did not make sense to me. So one day I stumbled across a TED-Ed by Elizabeth Cox called ‘What is imposter syndrome and how can you combat it’, check out the link below and share your thought.

The term Imposter Syndrome was first brought about by researcher Clance and Imes in 1978 who defined it as “individual experience of self-perceived intellectual fraud”. It has also be defined as the internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. Imposter Syndrome is the feeling of not deserving your accomplishments and even though it is not a diagnosable condition, it can result in negative mental health outcomes. Symptoms include stress, fear of failure, low self-esteem and performance anxiety.

I am calling on my own past experience as a self-doubting master graduate student, whose imposter syndrome was triggered by being the minority amongst the majority. The higher into education that I got, the less I saw people that looked like me. Two months into the course I developed the inability to acknowledge and internalise my accomplishments. I was lucky enough to get into a Russell group university on a partial scholarship and I could not shack the feeling that I did not deserve my place at the uni. Two months into the course I called my mum in tears telling her I wanted to drop out. Every success that came after that I disregarded the accomplishment and saw it as a result of being the ‘Token Black Girl’ or a system error. The feeling of not belonging caused me to isolate myself from the people on the course and eventually friends and family as well.

For BAME women, we are directly and indirectly told our whole lives, that we have to do and be more. We are made to feel like we are less-than or undeserving of success. Growing up I have been told I must work twice as hard because I am not only a woman but I am a BLACK WOMAN. Michelle Obama herself said that “those in power can make women, working-class people, and people of colour feel like they don’t belong”, because of this we find ourselves trying to prove to others that we deserved to be there.

Racial stereotypes fuel imposter syndrome because the way we see ourselves, others and the world is a reflection of our beliefs and values. One thing I ask myself is what are young women of colour learning about themselves.

So how do you overcome Imposter Syndrome?

  1. The only way to stop feeling like an imposter is to stop thinking like an imposter.

  2. Break the silence and talk about it. By talking about your feeling, you are recognising your emotions.

  3. Develop a new response to failure. If you are not sure about what I mean, go back and read my blog post ‘Chasing Failure’

  4. Visualise success and re-write what that looks like for you. Flawed beliefs about what success is and failure lay at the root of the imposter syndrome, so it is important to realign inaccurate beliefs.

  5. Develop a strong self-awareness of your strength at their role in your successes

So here is the take-home message. Every accomplishment you have achieved is because you deserve it. You are confident, you are strong and no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Yours Sincerely

Joan Idowu

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