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Owning My Greatness: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

I learned about Imposter Syndrome while reading an article in the Harvard Business Law Review on my lunch break two years ago. According to the report, Imposter Syndrome is harboring feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evidence of success. The article also stated, “Imposters” suffer from chronic self-doubt, low self-esteem, and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or any external proof of competency. We suppress our accomplishments. While reading this article and absorbing every detail, I reflected on how I often felt incompetent in achieving anything positive in my life and how my procrastination stems from not wanting to be labeled as a failure or seeming fake to others. Before recognizing I was dealing with a more significant issue than just wanting to “fit in,” I had dreams of achieving many milestones before turning 40 years old.

I always knew I was ambitious and smart. My father used to remind me all the time before his untimely demise that I was a born leader, but the idea of having other people judge my efforts and my ability to excel made me remain stagnant and silent. I spent much of my youth people-pleasing, dumbing myself down, and forcing myself into relationships that decreased my self-worth and ability to achieve. Breaking free from my own bondage, pursuing my life purpose was out of the question.

After some self re-evaluations and soul-searching, I decided to hit the reset button on my life and start putting some action toward achieving my goals. I knew the road was going to be hard, and convincing myself that I can do anything I put my mind to with dedication and hard work would be even more challenging because of my self-doubt and not wanting to seem like a fraud or failure. The first goal I aimed to achieve was my undergraduate degree.

Attending Georgia State University was a fantastic experience, but it was not easy. I allowed my imposter syndrome to seep in during most of my classes in the first semester of my first year. I felt intimidated because most of the students were younger, vibrant, going through their grad program, or had on-hand internship training. I felt scared to answer questions or participate in class discussions because I did not want to look like I was dumb or feel like I am faking my way through school. Most of the time, when the instructor will ask a question, I will feel anxious to speak because I knew the answer, and it will be at the tip of my lips fighting to get out. But instead, I remained quiet and allowed someone else to answer. They will say the same thing I was thinking, and I will quietly beat myself up because I permitted myself to stay silent. I remember trying to gain sympathy from one of my professors by sending him an email to explain my fear of speaking out and engaging in class. He did not accept the excuse and told me that He would not own my silence, PERIOD! From that point on, I knew I needed to overcome imposter syndrome while at school because it would put me back in the place of possible failure.

When I received my degree and completed my journalism program, it showed me that I could achieve any goal, it does not matter how big or small the tasks. I still regularly deal with Imposter Syndrome, but I am learning to push through my fears of being rejected, harshly criticized, or feeling like a phony. I know that I am not perfect, but I am brilliant and capable of excelling in opportunities presented before me. There are always going to be people who feel that you are not good enough to do anything. The key is reaching deep inside yourself and releasing self-doubt and low self-esteem. It is critical always to FIGHT to Believe in yourself. Be open to constructive criticism that will help you along your journey, and protect your peace against negative criticism, because it will happen. Do not be afraid to acknowledge your accomplishments. Shout it to the world because you earned your success and always stay faithful to your purpose!

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