Will I Make It After All?: Being An Imposter

Caitlin Hudon

Viola Brown, Copy Editor |

Growing up, I watched reruns of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and became obsessed with the opening title sequence of Mary Richards tossing her hat into the air. I still sometimes hum the theme song and hope that the positive message of girl power will seep into my blood stream.

Even though I will never have anything in common with this white woman from Minneapolis, I always pictured the older version of myself being a hip, smart, city girl like Mary.

However, as I’m approaching college graduation, I realize that I’ll never be like Mary and that’s okay because in real life, there isn’t a freeze frame that will leave you smiling and your hat floating in the air.

In reality, your hat will fall on the dirty concrete, and you’ll just have to dust it off and put it back

on.

I’ve always been a perfectionist and have always believed in the idea that if I work hard, I will succeed.

My mother raised me as a perfectionist in order to protect me from society. “Being black they already want to see you fail, so you can’t show them that,” she would say when I came home with a B on an assignment.

This pushed me to over-work myself in every activity that I participated in, and left me with tons of insecurities about my self-worth when I didn’t meet the expectations of others, or myself.

The voice in my head constantly says, “You are so fat, ugly, and stupid; no one will ever like you.” This leaves me wondering if I will ever be successful. Will all my hard work payoff, or is it just a waste?

Sometime last year while I was reading Refinery29 articles, I learned that the voice in my head is considered to be imposter syndrome (sometimes spelled impostor syndrome). When I did more research on the term, I learned that it’s not just some buzzword being thrown around, but a medical term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Ime.

The business magazine “Fast Company” describes imposter syndrome as “the psychological phenomenon, that reflects a belief that you’re an inadequate and incompetent failure, despite evidence that indicates you’re skilled and quite successful.”

When reading articles about imposter syndrome, one

of the main issues is that it’s mostly talked about in relation to young white-collar professionals, who are also typically white women.

Many news sources ignore the fact that marginalized groups of people would be affected by this more since they not only have to deal with self-doubt, but also societal doubt.

Many people are still racist and don’t like to see people of color succeed. Just look at the number of uneducated individuals who wanted former President Obama impeached because they claimed he wasn’t born in America.

The website Water Cooler Convos published the article, “It’s Not ‘Impostor Syndrome’ When You’re Black and Woman” by Jenn M. Jackson, explaining the doubt that black women face in professional settings. Jackson writes, “Black people, especially women, are socialized to believe that they are not allowed to enter these spaces not only because of the assumptions of inadequacy about their race, but also because of the social norms about the role of women in society.”

Looking back at what my mother told me, I completely relate to Jackson. In settings like the work place or the classroom, I always have to push myself to be the best. I have to prove to others that I deserve to be there just as much as they do.

This drive to succeed leaves me with self-hate, and a percieved feeling of personal failure because I’ll never meet my own unreachable expectations.

The main problem with imposter syndrome is that even when you put a name on it, you still feel empty because the voice in your head tells you that you’ll never be enough.

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