For as long as I can remember, I have always felt out of place in academia. As a little girl, my family would shower me with compliments based on my appearance. I was chula, linda, a muñeca. My brother was the intelligent one, great with money, a future leader. He was encouraged to sign up for extracurricular classes in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subjects. I was encouraged to take dance, theater, and art classes. To be fair, I never felt like I belonged in science and math classes, even though it was a deep-rooted dream of mine to one day become an astronaut. A career in science seemed completely far-fetched for me, so I chose my career in the arts.
The day I graduated from college, I felt like I didn’t deserve my degree. I was surrounded by my family and peers in one of the biggest days of my life, but all I could feel was like I didn’t work as hard as the other graduates. I felt like everyone except me had plans, goals, and amazing things to look forward to. How was I even qualified to graduate? To this day, I still have nightmares that I didn’t really graduate, that there is a whole list of classes that I forgot to attend and I have to start my college career all over again.
A few years after college, I received my first promotion at work. My stomach was in knots, I went home and cried (not of joy) and I was a nervous wreck for months. I thought for sure I would be found out and eventually fired. There was no way I was qualified for a promotion.
“I always thought this type of thinking was ingrained in my DNA because I’m female and Latina.”
These feelings of inadequacy follow me everywhere. I constantly feel like a fraud in all areas of my life: work, parenting, and personal relationships. A few years back, I read a New York Times article about Imposter Syndrome and I had an Oprah-worthy a-ha moment. It was definitely something I could relate to. According to the article, the term imposter syndrome is described as a feeling of “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” Sound familiar?
I always thought this type of thinking was ingrained in my DNA because I’m female and Latina. I am also 5 feet tall and look much younger for my age, so I don’t have an authoritative presence. I always assume other people know more than me, so I have a hard time asserting myself. And don’t even get me started on condescending male egos in the workplace or life in general. I don’t know how it developed or why, but over time I’ve learned to recognize these intrusive negative thoughts about myself and deal with them in these three simple ways.
1. Acknowledge It
By simply acknowledging what you’re feeling, you have the power to change your mentality around it. Recognize that your negative thoughts are not based on reality but on your fears. Turn your fears around by reframing your thoughts. Instead of asking yourself, why me? Reframe your thinking into, why not me?
When we see other people succeeding at high levels we often see them as people with more intelligence or ability. However, the one thing in common that people who perform at a high level have is a deep belief in themselves. Someone has to be the next successful entrepreneur, so why can’t it be you?
2. Done Is Better Than Perfect
I think perfectionism can be such a hindrance to success. I can’t tell you how many times I didn’t complete something because I thought it was not perfect enough to share. I always think that everything needs to be 110 percent before I can share it with the world. I’ve come to realize that perfect doesn’t exist; we are always evolving. Also, everyone’s definition of perfect is different, so let go of that word and adopt authenticity instead.
Getting something done is better than having it be perfect. Furthermore, being yourself is better than trying to emulate someone else.
Stop over analyzing your life and just get it done, whatever it is that you’ve been holding off on. Go ahead and start that business plan, book proposal, DIY project, website, etc.
3. Display Your Achievements
Whether it’s that high school or college diploma, an award you won, an article you were featured in, or if it’s the beautiful children you’ve brought into this world, be proud of your accomplishments and know that no one else can do it as you do. Hang up those beautiful family pictures, frame your diploma(s), and share your achievements on your Linkedin page. Let people know that they’re dealing with an accomplished and confident person. No one else in this world knows you as well as you do, so be kind to yourself and display your achievements when necessary.
This article was written by Gabriel Garcia and originally appeared on The Modern Brown Girl