Overcoming Impostor Syndrome


Perhaps it's the big sister or the cheerleader in me. But I've always been good at motivating people. Big interview coming up? Take a deep breath, you're going to be great! Hot date tonight? Don't worry about a thing, just be yourself! Trouble with your BFF/BF/GF/insert person here? Be honest and tell them how you feel.

But when it comes to giving myself a pep talk, I admittedly fall short. It's not always easy to practice what you preach.

Recently, a friend of mine, who also happens to run the social media for EBONY magazine, asked me to participate in a Twitter chat about what we as a Black community can do to help young Black girls.

Me? You're sure you want me?!

After I got over the flattery and excitement, fear began to set in. I'm not qualified for this. They're going to know I'm a fraud!

Although I am a champion for Black girls, my upbringing didn't exactly mirror the ones who are in crisis. I come from a two-parent household, grew up in a predominately White suburb in Maryland and I attended private school my entire life. Who am I to say how we can help Black girls who are facing suspension rates six times higher than their White counterparts?

So I panicked. After reading the questions for the chat ahead of time, I freaked the f*ck out. I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do this.

But my friend, the one in charge of the chat, thought otherwise and texted me this:

"Chile. You're Black. And you legitimately work to empower girls every day and have been doing so for a long time. You're not new to this. You got this."

Okay, if you say so.

And right before the chat started, my husband, God bless him, talked some sense into me and said, "I think you're too focused on finding the "right" answer versus "your" answer ... Remember, no one on this panel has the right answers. It's just opinions and ideas. Present it with conviction and people will respond positively."

He was absolutely right. I spent so much time thinking about what I was "supposed" to say, I didn't think about what I really wanted to say. Truth be told, Twitter chats make me slightly anxious because I worry that I won't be "cool enough." Everyone wants to be tweet-able, right?

And I was so busy comparing myself to the other special guest, a woman who'd founded a mentoring program for Black girls and was from the South Side of Chicago, that I failed to acknowledge my own qualifications. I deserved to be there as much as she did. Obviously, because my friend asked me to do it.

It's so easy to get caught up in comparison, especially on social media, that we succumb to impostor syndrome. Am I good enough? Do I deserve to be here? The answer is a resounding YES!!

I'm reminded of the quote "What if I fall? Oh but darling, what if you fly?" from Erin Hanson's popular poem. Sometimes we're so afraid of failure that we don't even give ourselves a chance to try. Sometimes you have to fall on your face, brush yourself off and get back up again. The world will go on and continue to spin on its axis. Basically, it's going to be okay.

There were times during the chat that I got flustered, but at the end of the day, I held my own and received praise from my former editor and friend who was running that chat. I did it!!

I've heard before that courage is a muscle and I'm starting to believe it. Maybe the next time someone asks me to speak (or tweet) on this topic, I won't look like a deer caught in headlights. And I'll trust myself. And my dopeness. It's a process and we're all learning. Step by step. Tweet by tweet.

How do you overcome impostor syndrome? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @LTintheCity!