As I approach my senior year of college and the inevitable beginning of sending out applications for post-graduate jobs, I’ve been combatting this feeling of imposter syndrome. Granted, I’ve always felt like an imposter in the many spaces I’ve occupied throughout my life, but in this period of time, it’s hitting a bit differently. I’m about to be introducing myself to the “real world”. No longer will I be a student excited to learn in the literal sense, but a person who is considered somewhat of an expert in the craft they have been studying for years. And I’m not sure if I’m ready.
According to Harvard Business Review, imposter syndrome can be defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success”. Like many people, especially people of color, this is a feeling known all too well. Despite filling all the criteria that one may use to define you as having “success”, you still second guess the accomplishments you’ve achieved.
For me, as a Black woman, this can manifest in multiple ways. But oftentimes, the internal struggle is influenced by outside perceptions. Whether it is being accepted into a prestigious university only to be told that you were accepted due to affirmative action (studies actually show that white women benefit the most from affirmative action), or being asked to join a team to fill their “diversity quota”, people only viewing Black people as less deserving of their accomplishments, and only finding success through handouts, does not fare well for us.
I remember when I was younger being told by my father that I’d have to work 10 times harder compared to my peers in order to find success in life. And I have. Based on my expectations of myself, I’ve exceeded each one and have continued to make great strides in my studies and my career. But despite all of that, I still immediately default to downplaying what I am capable of in order to be more palatable to whichever audience I’m serving. And that isn’t okay.
In this society, bragging is seen as an undesirable trait. “Stay humble” is a quote spoken by so many people. And for Black women, we are expected to stay humble to an even bigger extent. Whenever we are eager to share our accomplishments with the world, there are always people trying to knock us down and tell us to stop getting big heads. But if we worked hard for what we have and where we’re at, shouldn’t that be shared and celebrated? Why do I have to make myself smaller in order for you to feel better about yourself? That seems more like a “you” problem than a “me” problem.
So, it’s close to my senior year, and I am struggling with this idea of being humble, and whether or not I’m qualified enough for the jobs I’m going to be applying to. My resume has the words that qualify me, I’m so close to getting the degree, but I am still scared to be seen as an expert when I feel like I’m not.
I promised myself for the remainder of the year that I will hype myself up every day. I’ve done so much this summer, and while external validation and praise are wonderful, it doesn’t mean much if you aren’t happy with yourself. So I’m learning to be happy with myself, I’m learning to be proud of my hard work because it’s work I did, no one else but me. And someday soon, that will be enough.