Invisibility in the corporate, or “real” world as we call it, is a real plague for women of colour like me. I was a 19-year-old intern at Cosmopolitan Middle East and sadly, for a while, I found myself questioning whether I “deserved” my place there. And that is OKAY. This is an issue I grapple with daily, but you know what? It doesn’t have to be all that bad. Slowly, but surely, I’ve learned how to deal with it in a long-term, sustainable manner.
Having trouble internalizing our achievements is a common pattern found in women of colour, especially in social circles where we appear to be a minority. “Am I good enough?” I often ask myself. While the answer lies in the internalization of my incapabilities, I know in the eyes of those that see my work, I AM enough.
Where does the “Imposter Phenomenon,” or as cultural zeitgeist accept, “Imposter Syndrome” come from? For women of colour like myself, it comes from the self-skepticism of being a minority in a hegemonically white-dominated field. Even today, society’s understanding of Imposter Syndrome lacks racial, gender, social and professional diversity.
What can we do about this? As a South Asian female, I certainly cannot compare my successes to white counterparts that dominate the majority of my workspace and academic life. However, what I can do is remind myself to find purpose in what I do every day. I may have some difficulty breaking through the glass ceiling and being the most confident person in the room, but I am getting there, and you can too. If you’ve recognized your struggle with it, you’re already halfway there.
What I grapple with daily is feeling like a complete fraud about my abilities. Despite trying my best, every time I’m placed in an academic setting with my (predominantly) white counterparts, I’m left wondering if my work will meet their standards. You may ask, why are you worried if you’ve put in the work? Because, as a child of immigrant parents, I’ve always been told to put my head down and work thrice as hard. However, I’m not saying that the self-doubt that is often engendered due to my race has had solely negative impacts on my self-esteem. Many times it has pushed me out of my comfort zone. This has led me to upskill in ways I could’ve never imagined, a trait I will forever be grateful for.
While it’s right to say that a positive mindset that prioritizes growth is a good one, I have also come to realize that it’s important to have a certain degree of self-doubt to avoid complacency. I am learning that blips and failures will pave the way for growth as opposed to making you stagnate. Working at Cosmo, I’ve learned that you will make mistakes – from small grammatical ones to massive ones like accidentally publishing an article, lol.
Yes, I also struggle with asking people for help. I mean, why would I ask for help? I’m going to look incapable, as though I cannot take on a task of my own accord. However, I’ve decided to change my way of thinking to show that asking for help isn’t a demonstration of my incapabilities, but rather an expression of a slight burnout. And guess what? Burnout is OKAY. It happens to the best of us.
Here are a few ways I hacked my Imposter Syndrome and used it to my advantage. Instead of it becoming a sign of my weakness, it became a sign of strength:
1. ALWAYS go against the grain
Yep, this may be difficult if you constantly feel like a fraud about your capabilities. However, I have slowly learned that nobody will listen to you unless you want to be heard. Be comfortable in your skin, work as hard as you can, and I can almost guarantee recognition will follow.
2. Develop a positive response to failure
For anyone, failure is difficult. However, failure is especially difficult for us diasporic individuals who’ve been told to keep their heads down and work thrice as hard to get to where our white counterparts are. Developing a positive, “I’ll be okay regardless of the outcome,” response to failure will help you glean the learning value from a loss.
3. Recognize that you cannot carry the world on your shoulders
For someone who panics at the thought of asking someone else to do their work for them, this mentality was a difficult one to garner. However, what I’ve learned is that asking for help isn’t a demonstration of my incapabilities, but an indication that I just have been going too fast and too long. So, remember to always ask for assistance if you need it.
4. Credit yourself more
The good news with me being anal is that I make sure that I strive for good quality work. The way I learned to credit myself for this work was by constantly being hungry for more, asking for opportunities, and accepting the occasional blips along the way. You are only one person.
5. Fake it till you make it, literally
I know this is easier said than done, I know. Be courageous and take those risks. Play the part until it becomes natural for you.
Struggling with Imposter Syndrome has been alienating. However, Imposter Syndrome as a woman of colour is even harder. The microaggressions and unconscious bias that are embedded into our daily lives separate us from the hegemonic discourse, which can often have negative impacts on our self-image. However, recognizing that you do belong is, in a way, paving a way forward for yourself and the people around us. Remembering that Imposter Syndrome is caused due to society’s flaws and not ours is key. So, if you take anything from this article, it is to never put a stop to learning and growing. Take that risk and learn from it because, at the end of the day, you can weaponize it.
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