According to the 2010 US Census, there are about 9 million Americans who self-identified as multiracial. This means that a person may have parents, grandparents, and other ancestors who came from two or more ethnicities or races that they currently identify with today. This allows for a rich mix of beautiful cultures and heritages that multiracial people can experience. However, for some of us, there seems to be a disconnect from our ethnic culture, which can sometimes cause an identity crisis (also known as Imposter Syndrome).
To put it plain and simple, Imposter Syndrome is a psychological affliction that comes when a person questions or feels guilty about his or her personality and/or accomplishments. Imposter Syndrome can affect anybody at any stage of life for a wide variety of reasons. Many people go through it as teenagers and young adults trying to find their right fit in life. For people belonging to ‘minority’ groups and people who are multiracial, that struggle can be twice as hard.
Here are some things I used to curb my Imposter Syndrome that might help you as well:
1. Stop trying so hard to “fit in”
As cliche as it is, coming to terms with who you are as an individual, not as an ethnicity, can free you to become a happier and more confident person. You don’t need to be ‘ghetto’ to be black, you don’t need to be good at school to be Asian, you don’t need to be curvy and good at dancing to be Latina; you don’t need to and you shouldn’t have to go out of your way to perpetuate a stereotype to feel like you belong to your ethnicity or race. You’ve spent your entire life so far gathering your own unique interests, hobbies, and experiences. Those are precious and you should embrace them! If you catch yourself hiding them away, take a breath and reset. It’s ok, coming to terms with your true identity is a process. Just be gentle with yourself and remember to be authentic.
2. Let go of the FOMO
One huge piece of Imposter Syndrome baggage that I deal with often is my Fear Of Missing Out. On those little bubble sheets when they ask you to put in your ethnicity, I color in white, black, and Puerto Rican. I’m proud of my heritage, but also I really don’t know much about it, and it can be hard not knowing your history very well. My dad never taught my siblings and I how to speak Spanish, nor did he teach us recipes, tell us very many family stories, or ever really talk about where he was from. I always felt like I was missing out on who I was, as all of my other Puerto Rican friends knew all of the things I didn’t. But growing up, I learned to be content with all that I knew and didn’t know. I decided that ultimately, though I wish I could have had more experiences with my heritage, I was happy with the way that my family operated in the present and I wouldn’t change that for anything.
3. Do some research on your own
Though I just said that I was content with how things were, and I still am, I would never deny that I was still curious and had many unanswered questions. To solve those questions and to allow myself to grow into the things I was sorely missing, I decided to do some research on my own. First, I really wanted to learn how to speak Spanish, so I started taking classes and using Duolingo and Babble. It’s tough to start learning a language in adulthood, but I think I’m getting better! Secondly, I wanted to know what traditions and types of food were common from where my dad came from. I did a bit of digging on my own, since my dad has been tight-lipped about everything, and found some rice dishes I enjoy cooking and eating as well as the awesomeness that is bomba y plena folk music.
4. Practice Image Positivity!
The last thing is to practice loving our looks! It seems that for many multiracial people dealing with Imposter Syndrome, we just don’t look the way we wanted to. This might mean we have racial features that we don’t love because it doesn’t fit what other features look like on people around us. For me, it has always been my hair. Nowadays I rock my natural afro full out and I love my hair! But it took me nearly 17 years of my life to get to that point. I always wished that I had pretty, easy to manage, straight hair, and not a tangled mop of frizz. Most kids in my school district were white, so I got teased about my natural hair constantly.
But, social media started to diversify and I had supportive, body-positive/image-positive family and friends that helped me to accept myself the way I was made. It’s a hard transition and there are days when I still don’t like the way I look, but that is completely normal. It’s all about the effort, and fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude. Start small and compliment yourself on something you do like in the mirror. Work up to loving the things you do like, and eventually, you will be able to shake the shackles of Imposter Syndrome.
Watch this TED Talk about Imposter Syndrome