Imposter syndrome, man. It’s that little voice that tenses your shoulders, causes knots in your belly, and tells you that you’re not good enough. “You’re a fraud,” it says, “you don’t know what you’re doing, and pretty soon everyone at work or school is going to see you for the fake that you are.”
“Latinas Think Big,” a site devoted to Latina empowerment, breaks down possible reasons why imposter syndrome impacts us in a particularly big way:
With rare exception, Latinas are often cast in less than leading roles—we apparently make credible maids, cooks, secretaries, baby sitters or nannies. No doubt, all of those are noble jobs that have fed countless families and put children through school. But think back on the number of times a Latina has played the role of a successful lawyer, engineer, CEO or therapist in film or television. Can’t think of many, right? As a consequence, those of us who are in those roles often have that unique burden of proving that indeed we are legitimate players in those settings. It’s no surprise– Latinas have two career challenges: Doing the hard work that your professional duties require and keeping the assumptions others make of us in check.
So how can you combat it? Here are some tips:
1. Be your own Kanye.
Credit: Nickelodeon / Tumblr
It’s SO easy to focus on the negative. A bad comment tends to stick with us longer than compliments. Counteract this by being more like Kanye:
Dude is his own best cheering squad. And the trick is, you don’t even have to be confident to practice being confident. Just using more positive language about yourself to yourself can lift you up. Talk the talk, and eventually you’ll believe it.
Here’s how to start: Keep track of your successes. Plop ’em into the “Notes” section on your phone or keep a running tab on your calendar. That meeting you led flawlessly? That essay everyone loved? That was all you, bb. Revel in it.
2. Sweep the sh*t away.
Credit: CBS Films
It can be tempting to focus so much on all the (figurative, mostly) sh*t on your path that you forget to focus on the path itself. You become caught up in the little mistakes, mishaps and missteps that you begin forgetting your bigger goal. When you have a specific goal and purpose — whether it’s giving a presentation without being nervous or earning a big promotion — it’s easier to not sweat the small setbacks in the grand scheme of things. So stop focusing on the sh*t. Wipe your feet and keep going. (Again, figuratively. I hope.)
3. Be jealous. For real.
Credit: Disney Channel
Jealousy can actually be a super useful emotion if approached in the right way. It reveals what we want, and we can work on ourselves accordingly. Are you jealous of someone else’s writing or people skills? Awesome. Now you know that are things about yourself that you should focus on the most. Let the things you’re jealous of and the people you view as competition lead you to becoming the best version of YOU.
4. Look to a mentor who isn’t a cheerleader.
Credit: Paramount Pictures
The academic and professional worlds are daunting enough even if you’re not dealing with feeling like you don’t belong. Having someone who’s been through it all to guide you makes it a little easier. And know that a mentor isn’t there to cheer you up or cheer you on: They’re teaching you and making you better by pointing out your mistakes and how you can improve upon them. If imposter syndrome tells you that you don’t belong because you’re not good enough, a tough mentor will let you know that you’re good enough to invest their time in. Put another way: You’re good enough now to become great later.
How do you get one? Start asking questions to someone at work you admire — specific questions on how you could improve, and see whether a rapport is formed. You can also sign up for mentors through your college, or through a variety of organizations.
5. Cultivate a support group. (And bring wine.)
You don’t have to deal with this alone and, in fact, you shouldn’t. Beyond a mentor, look to others who are in a similar boat and at the same level. They don’t even have to work with you or even be in the same industry, although that certainly helps. Get together with friends for some healthy (limited) venting or a celebratory night out (with wine, lots of it) to mark your successes. These are the people who’ll be around when you need someone else to help counteract that negative voice in your head. Sign up for networking groups through your school or city, or make sure to have lunch with your coworkers instead of eating it alone at your desk.
6. Be supportive.
Just as you need support from others, others will need it from you. Giving other people a pep talk helps build up stronger ties, and it can also help clarify things for yourself. We tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on other people, so helping others work through their issues in a gentle, constructive way can actually provide you with template on how to talk to yourself.
7. Take a damn break!
Create balance in your life so that work and/or school don’t take up all of your mental and emotional energy. Slow down and enjoy your meals. Take a stroll during your lunch break. Savor your free time. Read a book you really love. Meditate before getting out of bed, or right before you sleep. Or just allow yourself the time, even just an hour, to veg out and watch Netflix with some gummy bears. Doing small things just for you will make you a healthier, happier person who is better able to deal with stress.
You got this!
Have you felt “less than” at work? What tips do you have for combatting that feeling?