Kevin Hillman, Urban Education Studies Doctoral Candidate
Cheesy, yes, I know, but hear me out. Considering our individual and/or shared journey in this academic arena, many of us are no stranger to imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, in my own words, is consistent feelings of doubt plaguing belief in your gifts, talents, and abilities, as compared to others, with a fear of being exposed as a fraud. Short version, you don’t want people to know that you feel as though you don’t know what you’re doing, compared to others doing similar work, research, and so forth. Let me tell you a secret, many of them don’t know what they’re doing either but that isn’t stopping them from pushing forward with their work and/or research.
And if you didn’t remember, we’re in academia. Our entire journey is filled with seeking answers or strategies to our educated assumptions or guesses and figuring it out as we go. Think about your favorite scholars and/or theorists. They didn’t enter this world just knowing and standing 100% firm in their area of expertise. They hypothesized, experimented, failed, and succeeded – with these milestone moments serving as foundation pieces to belief in themselves and research.
Story Time: For the last 13 years I have desired to be a full-time entrepreneur. During that time I have started 3 separate business, the first failed, the second has not taken off at the speed and the direction I had hoped and the third is happening right now. Out of all three endeavors, the most is unique because, you guessed it, imposter syndrome.
As a full-time independent consultant I get paid to use my gifts, talents, and abilities in partnership with organizations to help them plan for and reduce barriers to success in their operational and programmatic areas. Before deciding to pursue this full-time, imposter syndrome had me in a chokehold. I couldn’t help but compare myself to others, and doubt my own areas of expertise, despite having a record of successes and a community of people who believed in and highlighted my abilities and skills. It took me 4-6 months before I could talk myself into leaving my full-time job and pursue entrepreneurship for a third time.
Since making that leap, I understand that falling victim to imposter syndrome would severely impact my quality of life in a negative way. To avoid being swept up in those false feelings, I have been learning different strategies to help me pushback.
Strategy 1: I am learning how to give myself grace. Mistakes happen, some experiences and/or information is a hard learning curve, some concepts I just won’t understand and so forth.
Strategy 2: This has been the hardest to learn because I have spent most of my life very critical of myself, but I am learning how to talk to myself from a more loving and asset-based approach.
Strategy 3: Build or find a supporting community. In academia it can feel very isolating, and those moments are perfect breeding grounds for doubt. Have a supportive community will help remind you who you are, and what you have to offer during those doubtful moments, and on days you can’t do it for yourself.
Bet On Me in 2023 is more of a challenge I want to give to those of you that are struggling with imposter syndrome. For the next 30-60 days I want you to find strategies or use the ones I provided to combat those feelings in a way that best fits you. I recognize this is easier said than done, as it continues to be a daily practice for me. With that being said, I wish you success on your journey to a more authentic, confident, and thriving version of yourself!