Imposter syndrome is simply an indication of self-doubt during clear waves of success. From Academia to the workplace, there’s a feeling of “doubt” or “not deserving” in moments of success even if as a matter of fact, an individual’s dedication and hard work was what brought them to success.
Feelings of fraud force these to remain silent. Why? Because society has placed a mandate for how a victim should look like, and is a lot more sympathetic to victims who meet these standards.
This feeling varies in different ways. Imposter syndrome is when the mixed race girl struggles to fully blend into her identity as a black woman because social media constantly tells mixed women they’re not black enough or are quick to mention that they’re “half-black”. It is the South African girl moving to another country and isn’t as active in class because she doesn’t think she belongs. It is an alienating feeling of “maybe I shouldn’t be here” or “maybe I shouldn’t do this” when in fact, you should.
As an immigrant, this is something we tend to experience. Imposter syndrome is what prevents an immigrant from negotiating their pay because they’re “grateful” to have gotten the position. Even if, their skills and experience makes them qualified for the job and ultimately, impostor syndrome is what silences a lot of women from speaking out.
With societal expectations placed on how a sexual assault survivor should act, there are survivors of sexual assault who downplay their experiences as not good enough to be believed hence remain silent or survivors who have silenced themselves because they believe they put themselves in the situation, maybe by drinking or staying out late. Feelings of fraud force these women to remain silent. Why? Because society has placed a mandate for how a victim should look like, and is a lot more sympathetic to victims who meet these standards. In addition to this, when a perpetrator happens to be an immigrant from the same country as well, the feeling of guilt comes in play, mainly because consequences might include deportation.
I learn everyday to not be silent. I love my job but two weeks into my work, I dealt with my first workplace harassment. I was already struggling with imposter syndrome as a young immigrant working in the government. I was nervous about negotiating my pay, being in the same position as coworkers who have been working before I was born but are now considered equals to me and of course being a black woman and wanting to avoid all the stereotypes that could possibly be attached to me (I can’t). Hence, when I was harassed, I was stunned and felt somewhat helpless. From little side comments to blatant harassment. I expressed my discomfort and annoyance to the perpetrator immediately and he apologized but I was still pissed. I really tried to let it go. It was my second week. I didn’t want to be that newbie who was reporting to the supervisor at her second week. That girl never makes friends, so I thought! The man in the picture was black and had been working there for over 15 years.
My imposter syndrome was at an all-time high. At the end of that week, I realized that if I didn’t do something about it, it would continue so I reported him to my supervisor the next week who took it up from there, but not without seeking advice from two of my coworkers (almost like I wanted their approval to voice out being harassed). When I expressed my concerns to my supervisor, he said “no one deserves to be harassed. even if it’s your first day of work, report it”. Even after my colleagues’ approval and apologies to me for having to deal with such at my second week, I still struggled with this imposter syndrome. I also expressed all this to friends and acquaintances and in their approval that I did the right thing, I was comforted. Since the incident, I have seen him and spoken in a respectful manner that has boundaries. My supervisor followed up and I’m guessing he was given a warning with a report on his record.
I say this, silence creates cycles and systems of abuse. In higher Institutions in Canada, there are structures in place to oversee issues of assault, abuse and workplace or school harassment. Some might argue that they aren’t always as effective but speaking out is the first step to any action being taken. You are worth it. No one deserves to be treated less and be accepting of it because of societal expectations or your imposter syndrome.
Regardless of that, let’s push through and make our voices heard in every institution.
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