Imposter - a person who pretends to be someone else in order to deceive others, especially for fraudulent gain.
Can you have imposter syndrome if you show up as your authentic self?
I learned at a young age that if I could find out what someone wanted me to be - the fictional character they created in their head - and become that person, then I could get to where I thought I wanted to go.
You can find countless articles on “imposter syndrome” and how it demonstrates itself in classrooms or the workplace. The Harvard Business Review defines imposter syndrome as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters’ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence.” It can affect you regardless of gender, age, race, or economic status. I won’t pretend to be a scientist because it's a complicated psychological issue. This syndrome is not easy to overcome or eliminate from your life. However, as I continue to evolve, I want to share how imposter syndrome has shown up in my life and part of my journey to conquer it. It’s not easy, but it’s simple.
The interesting thing about feeling like an imposter is that it’s rarely a conscious decision. You pick up the phone and automatically switch up your tone of voice. You get into a conversation and start using foreign lingo. You get dressed in the morning and change your outfit three times to make sure you “fit in”. You start to pretend to be a fictional character and you don’t even realize it.
Once you compromise yourself, where’s the limit? My aspirations of financial gain through social acceptance caused me to abandon being my authentic self and embrace an image I thought would be comfortable to the audience I wanted to impress. This question helped me realize how code-switching contributed the development of my imposter syndrome.
Shawn Carter, my favorite American entrepreneur, said, “I walk in every room as myself. I don’t walk in any room as anyone else.” Although it’s a simple statement, it’s a difficult practice. When I kept it real with myself, I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t always living that reality. I would unconsciously become an imposter, then complain about the feeling.
A lot of times, I thought to myself, “I’m not supposed to here.” On one hand, it was an acknowledgement of the grace I’ve received through being presented with unique opportunities that weren’t traditionally created with people like me in mind. On the other hand, it fed into the narrative that I didn’t belong. My internal dialogue convinced me it was essential for me to adapt my behavior in order to be accepted. Then I realized, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and if I’m not accepted there, that’s cool.
It’s my responsibility to be myself. I’m not doing anyone any favors by switching up. If the crowd hasn’t interacted with someone like me before, then I’m introducing them to a new personality and perspective. If I want to help open doors for my peers coming after me, they’ll be able to authentically be themselves without consequence. And if the crowd is stuck in their ways and don’t realize the blessing in front of them, that’s their loss. Some people just aren’t ready for change yet.
Although it’s not eliminated, I rarely feel the mental stress of imposter syndrome anymore. I started being comfortable showing up as my authentic self and stopped overvaluing the world’s opinion of me. Once I stopped pretending to be someone else and fully embraced being Kam, I found a new sense of peace.
Life & Leadership Coach | Inspirational Speaker
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