Overcoming Impostor’s Syndrome

For the women and/or minorities who have ever had episodes of lasting self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, or thoughts of being exposed for not being worthy enough to be in certain spaces, do not let these thoughts define you. This phenomenon is called impostor syndrome and it can be crippling if you don’t know the signs. According to a study done in 2011, about 70 percent of people are projected to experience at least one episode of this in their lives, especially high achieving women of color.

At the collegiate level, impostor syndrome can impact enthusiasm to contribute in the classroom, willingness to take on leadership roles, and overall drive to perform at maximum potential. This minimalizing of general performance happens because one does not want to be exposed as an impostor or fraud. These feelings are further cultivated by familial expectations, perfectionism, self-esteem, levels of higher education or positions in the workplace hierarchy, etc. Minorities feel the pressure to prove themselves in ways that the overwhelming majority may not have to. This task is taxing and naturally induces feelings of inadequacy.

However, there are coping mechanisms to make it bearable. You can start by simply talking about it and letting someone know that you are bothered. If you are in an environment where you are underrepresented, know that these feelings are going to be natural. Everybody makes mistakes; tell yourself that they do not define you, and use your strengths to bounce back. Ultimately, seek the most validation from within. It is easy to let others’ words and expectations influence your self-image. However, when you know that you’re doing the right things in the right place and succeeding, external words don’t matter.

The flip side of battling and preventing impostor syndrome lies in the hands of schools and workplaces. When recruiting students or potential employees that are at risk, it is crucial that workspaces and educational institutions have the resources to help individuals that are at risk or are struggling. If there are no means to help people cope, schools and companies are handicapping their own potential. Beyond providing solutions, schools and employers should internally work to make sure their corporation or school is a space where someone would not feel like a fraud. This is why diversifying these spaces is imperative. Diversity and inclusion trainings are essential. Ultimately, cultural competency is vital in order to promote the celebration of individual identities.