• J.Greathouse

Impostor Syndrome: What it is + How to Break up with it!

Have you ever gotten a job and wondered whether the interviewer made a mistake? Or perhaps every time your partner showers you with love, you’re petrified they’ll discover you don’t deserve it. If you can resonate with scenarios like this, you’ve likely experienced impostor syndrome. It can make you feel as though you aren’t good enough as you are and have to constantly change yourself to prove your worth. This condition often makes you doubt who you are and what you’re capable of; in many ways, it erodes your self-esteem.

Impostor syndrome is more than a trend or catchy phrase––it’s a reality for many. Individuals who struggle with it often feel different, displaced and lack a sense of belonging.

If you want to learn more about what impostor syndrome is and how you can overcome it, continue reading below.

What is Impostor Syndrome

Also known as impostor phenomenon or impostorism, it’s a condition that makes you believe your success results from external factors and luck as opposed to your talent and skills. It can make you question how worthy you are of praise, achievements, and the good things life has to offer. For the most part, you struggle to accept and believe success happens to you because you’re deserving despite external evidence proving otherwise. Interestingly, those who suffer from impostor syndrome are often high-achievers.

A review article published in the International Journal of Behavioral Science tells us that around 70% of people experience impostor syndrome at some point in their life. This means you are not alone in your struggle, which can be comforting to know. Mainstream psychology began documenting the term around 1978, however. Since that time numerous studies have been done on the condition and how it presents in the workplace and beyond.

Impostor Syndrome and Black Indigenous Women of Color

Unfortunately, research tells us impostor syndrome especially affects those who identify as women, although other gender identities experience it too. This could be because most early studies have focused on women. It’s also found to be prevalent among BIWOC. Why could this be?

One reason could be because modern-day success continues to be male centric while upholding patriarchal norms in most settings. Throughout history success has been defined by status, political power, and wealth-—three areas historically dominated by white men. How does this affect BIWOC and make them more prone to impostor syndrome? They can fall into the mindset of defining success by these standards, and falling short can make them minimize their success.

Impostor Syndrome and Microaggressions

The workplace environment can also trigger impostor syndrome for BIWOC. Experiencing microaggressions from work colleagues can perpetuate thoughts of unworthiness and not being good enough. A study on microaggressions in the workplace among women of color found Balck women feel pressure to perform perfectly to counter negative stereotypes about black women. The study also found racial microaggressions lead to feelings of embarrassment and guilt.

What does microaggression at work look like for black women? Being “tone policed” and tagged aggressive or loud in the workplace. This can lead to you minimizing yourself or shrinking to avoid bolstering the stereotype. Likewise, being interrupted while speaking can make women feel as though their voices don’t matter; the recent debate between Kamala Harris and Vice Pence is a primary example. Another common scenario we see- women's ideas being ignored in the workplace, yet when their male counterparts contribute the same ideas, they’re, praised.

Women already have more obstacles to overcome simply from the impacts of privilege and systemic oppression; they often feel the urgency to work twice as hard for the same jobs as men, and Black women in the U.S. earn 39% less than white men.

This often leads to the endless internal battle of second guessing our own judgement in situations that feel "unfair". Is it me? Is it racial? Is it because I am a woman?- Well I will just work extra hard to level the playing field for myself!