At work I feel like an impostor. This is common in academia. On February 5, David Leonard wrote a piece for the Chronicle of Higher Education blog titled “Imposter Syndrome: Academic Identity Under Siege?”
He points out that many people experience impostor syndrome, but it cannot be fully understood without taking into consideration race, gender, sexuality, and class among other things. As a woman, person of color, and member of the LGBTQ community I sometimes wonder how my experience of impostor syndrome differs from others. As David Leonard states in his piece, race, class, and gender play a huge role in determining whom experiences the professional insecurities associated with impostor syndrome. Leonard’s piece reminded me that my experience is not unique. It also validated my experience in that it acknowledged that my insecurities in academia are intricately linked to my experiences as a black woman.
My awareness of impostor syndrome does not preclude me from experiencing it. Sometimes I think I don’t deserve to be where I am, that everyone views me as a token without recognizing my merits. I think that I have to work harder to make up for being somewhere I feel like I don’t belong. And when I feel like a total impostor, I start to think that the diversity of my identity is a hindrance rather than an asset. And before you know it I’m immobilized by stress and anxiety. If I am doing my best at work, working more and overextending myself only intensifies those feelings.
When it comes to addressing the impact of impostor syndrome, working harder is the key. But I don’t mean working harder in the traditional sense. I have to work harder at taking care of myself. Working harder on me is one thing that alleviates my feelings of being an impostor. I know what I need to do in order to take care of myself and have a self-care program that works for me. The components of a self-care regiment vary from person to person. The most important thing is to figure out what works for you and make a commitment to doing those things. In addition to my self-care routine, there are other strategies I employ that help with my experience of impostor syndrome. Recently, I discovered that I feel more competent and confident at work after updating my vita. So now I look at my vita often. Sometimes I even place my vita somewhere visible (to me) in my office as a reminder of my accomplishments. I also surround myself with people who recognize my hard work and everything that I’ve done to get to this place. I acknowledge my accomplishments and I am working on believing others when they acknowledge them for me.
If you struggle with impostor syndrome, I encourage you to work harder on you. Take care of yourself. We do not need to overwork ourselves on the job in order to compensate for fictional inadequacies. I have redefined what “working harder” means for me. I own all aspects of my identity. I know I am not alone in my experience. There are things that can be done at an institutional level to help individuals who are members of marginalized groups address issues related to impostor syndrome. For now, I am going to focus on me and what I can do. I’m going to work hard at taking care of myself, while remembering that I deserve to be exactly where I am.