Learning Log 1: "I am and you are enough"
You may have heard of imposter syndrome. I had it bad – still have it, but now mildly only. It is a state of mind that many high achievers find themselves in. A belief that they are an inadequate and incompetent failure despite evidence that indicates they’re skilled and quite successful. Bush Fellows are high achievers, and I often hear from Fellows, that on first hearing of being selected, among other emotions, they felt tremendous doubt and worry about whether they would be “enough” – enough to carry out the vision. As a Fellow, I felt it too.
I was selected as a Fellow in 2020, a year of disease, death and hate. A year, when our core beliefs in humanity and institutions created to support humanity, failed miserably to prevent us from disease, death and hate. 2020 shook many, if not all of us to the very core. As a newly selected Bush Fellow in that year, praised for leadership and great potential, it was an immediate call to serve – to act. It brought an opportunity to do things differently, to do things better, and most of all, an urgent call to advance equity. It was a great time to be chosen – to be afforded the resources – to step into a bigger vision and bigger role. But it was intimidating!
In the first six months of my Fellowship, that imposter syndrome seemed evermore present – more amplified. I don’t know if it was the weight of being recently named a member of this prestigious Fellowship (with high expectations) or if it was the unprecedented events of the times or both – but no other time was the imposter syndrome amplified as big and ugly as those first six months for me.
My journey to learning and managing imposter syndrome was one of the first and best things that I did – even though it wasn’t explicitly outlined in my Fellowship plan. I needed to explore and manage it. Doing so was critical to opening the space for me to develop further and to grow into the leadership role that I need to grow into. I haven’t overcome it, but it has become so much easier to manage. Below are some things I learned and kept close. They’re not earth-shattering but they are helpful reminders:
• Process With Others: I found others with like missions and values. Some of them were friends already – and some were becoming fast friends. I processed that feeling of doubt with them and did the same for them. These friends and supports were amazing in providing reminders that the feeling when it came, wasn’t real. In reality, I am quite capable – have demonstrated that time and again – and no longer need to prove to myself or anyone else. I am enough.
• Keep Quick Reminders Around: Little reminders that you are capable - whether those reminders come in the form of uplifting phrases; a picture; an image – they can be super helpful.
• Understand the Cause(s): Only in recent years did I learn that there was a name for this worry/doubtful feeling. It was even more recent that I learned imposter syndrome permeates through many spaces and people. While many people experience it, it is more likely to occur in certain groups than others – e.g., women, women of color, especially black women and the LGBTQ community. I came across an article from a psychotherapist who wrote that when we have experienced systemic oppression or have been directly and indirectly told all our lives that we are less-than or not-deserving and then we begin to achieve things that go against that narrative implanted in our minds – imposter syndrome will occur. That was exactly what happened to me.
The Bush Fellowship is a once a lifetime opportunity to work on myself, and I am going to do just that. I will need help, but I am no longer afraid to ask for help. So, while it has only been six months since I started my Fellowship, the rewards are already in sight – self acceptance and inner peace!