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Black CEOs Share How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome through Faith and Action

Impostor Syndrome is an internal experience of believing that you aren’t as competent as others perceive you to be. It severely affects people looking to transition. As we strive to transition from one area of life to another a little voice tells us we can’t do it. But for Black people, Impostor Syndrome is a […]

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Impostor Syndrome is an internal experience of believing that you aren’t as competent as others perceive you to be. It severely affects people looking to transition. As we strive to transition from one area of life to another a little voice tells us we can’t do it. But for Black people, Impostor Syndrome is a way of life. We receive daily reminders that we don’t belong anywhere through microaggressions at work, cold shoulders at networking events or on the golf course, police encounters, etc.

In addition to feeling inadequate and/or isolated, being the only Black individual in a department or company can make overcoming this obstacle even harder. Yet, there is hope. Here are five ways to overcome Impostor Syndrome:

  1. Realize you’re not alone.

This point has a double meaning. Many Black professionals struggle with Impostor Syndrome in silence, so you’re not alone. Also, you’re also not alone because God is with you.

“When we are striving to do what is right, God is working on our behalf. He usually places people in our lives to help us in our journey, seek relationships with individuals who are willing to invest in your talents,” says Michael Patterson, CEO, M & S Patterson Life Consulting.

If you’re a religious or spiritual person faith is important, perhaps the most important part of your life. Allow it to guide you in your transition.

2. Have a strong belief in yourself.

How you look at yourself will often determine how people will look at you.

“If you believe you’re inferior, you will behave that way. Make every company and person qualify themselves to you first instead of the other way around. That’s how you can start shifting the power dynamics,” says Corey Jackson, CEO of Querkz.

You’re good enough! Now, believe it.

3. Change or create your environment.

Most likely, you’ll have to create or change your environment since most aren’t geared to Black or brown people.

“While our white counterparts may not feel they have what it takes to perform a job, they are given tremendous support along the way in acknowledged and unacknowledged ways,” says Aaisha Joseph, CEO, Aaisha Renee Consulting.

We usually don’t have the same support systems as our White counterparts. Environments affect our moods, our decision making, and ultimately, our lives. We must change our current one or create the right one if we are to succeed.

4. Believe you don’t have to be perfect or twice as good.

We want to transition but we don’t want to look like a fraud. So, we feel we have to be perfect or twice as good as everybody else before stepping out.

“Don’t bend to the pressure induced from years of hearing that you have to be twice as good. So many of us have internalized anxiety from this directive. Shift the focus to crafting your value proposition,” says Daron K. Roberts, Founding Director, Center for Sports Leadership & Innovation, University of Texas-Austin.

It’s not about being perfect or twice as good. It’s about believing in yourself, doing what you know well and learning as you go. All successful people do this.

5. Remember your past achievements.

When we choose to transition, we can be confident because we’ve achieved things in our past that we can bring into our “new” life. While our past may seem unrelated to our “new” life, there’s usually a link between the two. For example, before David stood up to Goliath, he remembered what he did as a shepherd boy. His experience in protecting his sheep gave him the confidence to fight Goliath. He killed him and later became king of Israel. Once we identify our achievements, we can draw on them and confidently step into our new identity.

Black professionals generally have fewer resources and support systems than our White counterparts. But that can’t stop us. We can’t just wait for opportunities; we must create them. This is why it’s so crucial to pool our resources and create our support systems. To overcome we must believe in ourselves, surround ourselves with people who support us, and remember we that have a God who always has our back.

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