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I Got Lucky: Dealing With Imposter Syndrome

Amber Tucker

“I’m not good enough.”

“They’re not going to listen to me.

“I’m a fraud.”

Have you heard that voice in your head that’s telling you that you do not belong and one day soon, everyone will figure it out? It has a name. It is not the truth and it is not “your conscience.” It’s a phenomenon called “Imposter syndrome.”  Imposter syndrome is a term coined by psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzane A. Imes in 1978. It describes the “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believer that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Socially, it could mean that you don’t think you belong with your friend group, professionally, it could mean that you’re not that good at your job, despite the reassurance and accolades from your boss, your team or your clients. Outside validation does not quiet the voice and instead you believe that all your success is a fluke.

Rest assured; you are not alone. 

Studies show that roughly 70% of Americans struggle with imposter syndrome. For minorities, the impact of imposter syndrome hits harder, especially when working or operating in predominately white spaces. Most of us grew up hearing the “you have to be twice as good” speech. Being “twice as good” means making zero mistakes, excelling on every project, and being socially proficient. Having an “off day” only confirms that you are not good enough. These thoughts can be crippling. 

While not an official, diagnosable condition, psychologists and other mental health experts recognize that extend feelings of isolation and stress caused by imposter syndrome can lead to anxiety and depression. As it stands, African Americans are already more prone to mental health problems – by 20% — and we’re less likely to be properly diagnosed and treated. 

 However, there are things that you can do to help overcome imposter syndrome. 

  • Let go of perfectionism. Attention to detail is one thing but expecting perfection will cause anxiety and block productivity. 
  • Talk to a manager or a mentor. You shouldn’t rely on outside validation but expressing your concerns with someone you respect and is able to view and evaluate your work, give you feedback.
  • Embrace new opportunities. Do not allow your fears to stop you from taking on new projects and challenges. 
  • Celebrate your wins. It is not bragging. Acknowledge your success and celebrate them. It will remind you that you are competent and capable. 

It is important to acknowledge the nagging voice, but not to give into it. Remind yourself that you have the knowledge and the skillset to accomplish the goal. You belong. You have value. 

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