Living With Imposter Syndrome as a Minority

Have you ever felt fear that you were inadequate? 

Perhaps you’re a young business professional, or student who is questioning your worth at work. Often, people of color self-sabotage and subconsciously believe that they aren’t worthy enough to actually secure a role in a professional setting. 

Why is that? You’ve met all the credentials, you made it past the interview process, and yet, you don’t believe that you truly belong. 

The term Imposter Syndrome was coined by psychologist Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978 and was used to explain a subconsciousness of a false reality, which appeared to be particularly prevalent in high achieving women. 

Ehimetalor Unuabona

One thing for certain is media, healthcare professionals and corporate environments have been consistent reminders to why people of color experience this “imposter syndrome.” African Americans are 10% more likely to experience serious psychological distress than Caucasians. 

Although imposter syndrome isn’t a diagnosed mental health issue, it can dramatically affect people of color.

I interviewed Yakeyna Jones, 33, a Program Manager for a tech firm in Atlanta. I wanted to understand how “imposter syndrome” affects an African American woman in a technology because they are often underrepresented. Yakeyna discusses how every day can be a struggle in her position as a double minority, and how she challenges herself to overcome that stigma. 

N: Do you believe there is any correlation between race or gender and imposter syndrome? 

Y: Absolutely, there's a correlation. Caucasians males are taught that they deserve the world, the world is theirs. Women are treated as if we're only capable of secretarial work and are questioned about anything technical. African American people regardless of gender are expected to be lazy and hot tempered. A calm natured, intelligent, hardworking African American woman is thought of as the exception to the rule and far from the standard. 

N: Do you believe that age plays a role in why you feel that you shouldn’t be in a position? 

Y: I often feel myself quoting, you must be twice as good to get as much as, or in some cases, just half as your counterparts. Understanding that logic dates to a time in which blacks had to be far more qualified than Caucasian’s to even be considered for a position that paid them substantially less. 

N:What if any advice would you give women/men of color that would help them overcome imposter syndrome? 

Y: The importance of building your network and having mentors that have your best interest at heart to help guide you where you want to be. 

The last question people of color should begin to ask themselves is “how do we grow out of this we’re not good enough mentality?” Changing the narrative it begins with people of color not second guessing themselves. 

Though society hasn’t been in favor of equal opportunities, this ultimately gives people of color to stand out amongst their peers. Yakeyna got in her role by remaining authentic and helping others along the way. In doing so, her peers often look to her for guidance even when she doesn’t have it all figured out. 

The way that African Americans overcome “Imposter Syndrome” is by divorcing the need to pretend in positions of power, having a level of confidence, and believing in yourself.