Updated: Feb 21, 2019
"I often did this mental dance where I would lead with self-doubt and follow it up with self-assurance."
I was 30 when I got my first big break.
A young, black female on senior staff.
I felt like I had arrived.
I was overcome with emotion; mostly joy but also an unhealthy level of self-doubt. Part of me couldn’t quite accept that I had truly earned this promotion.
“Could I do this?”
"Why did he choose me?"
"What if I didn’t live up to their expectations?"
"They’re going to realize that I’m a fraud."
I often did this mental dance where I would lead with self-doubt and follow it up with self-assurance. “After all, I am the first person to inhabit this role,” I would tell myself, and “without much guidance or support, I could shape this role on my own terms."
"Even though much of my work was lauded and I believe I had eventually earned the respect of many of my colleagues, these thoughts always had a way of overpowering the evidence."
I think much of my impostor syndrome stemmed from being an outsider.
I was still relatively new to academia and did not possess a PhD which would have at least garnered some initial respect from my faculty colleagues. I feared that people questioned my ability to deliver and my "deservedness" of the role.
Mind you, much of these criticisms were self-fabricated, but that didn’t matter, because they felt real to me. Even though much of my work was lauded and I believe I had eventually earned the respect of many of my colleagues, these thoughts always had a way of overpowering the evidence.
As crazy as this might sound, instead of trying to counter those negative thoughts, I found a way to re-purpose them into a motivating force. I used those feelings to drive my work ethic and prove (to myself mostly) that I was worthy of such a position. But let’s be real: I knew I would be held to a different standard as a black woman, as someone outside of academia, and as a young “inexperienced” person--so I made sure I was twice as good. I tried my best to deliver flawless work and when I truly needed help, I sought it out. While I was on this crusade to combat stereotypes and live up to my potential, I also wanted to remain authentic and humble.
In the end, I was proud of what I had accomplished. Instead of silencing those voices in my head, I listened to them and used them to push me forward. After a couple of years in that role, I interviewed for a similar position at another organization and successfully secured that job.
Turns out, a healthy dose of impostor syndrome does wonders for your career.
Solomé Rose is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Planned Parenthood of Central Western New York. She is deeply passionate about social justice and racial equity and has spent her career advancing those issues.