In the early years of my career, I spent many hours discussing my imposter syndrome with my therapist, Andaye. Andaye was constantly pulling me out of my false narrative. I expressed how anxious I was about getting “found out” and fired from my new job at NPR.
I was the first Latina hired in their newsroom and I always felt uncomfortable in editorial meetings, nauseous, often shaky, and always doubtful. But I kept it all very hidden. I was always worried that people would find out I wasn’t as good as they thought I was.
Many of us have caught ourselves wondering: “What am I doing here? I don’t belong here. Someone is going to discover that I am a fraud. I am not qualified to be here.” That's the basic definition of imposter syndrome.
And it’s absolutely normal.
I’d like to share one of the foundational pieces of advice I have on battling your imposter syndrome:
One of the most powerful words I use to combat imposter syndrome is “empirical”. To mean empirical means something that is based on fact and hard truth. In the early years of my career, I practiced this word's power on myself and reframed my self doubt. I used it much more when my daughter started struggling with her own imposter syndrome at her high-performing “elite” high school.
I would tell her “Mijita, let’s look at things empirically, look at the facts and only the facts.” She frequently struggled with essays that didn’t seem “good enough” compared to the work of her classmates, many of whom had been in this “elite” school funnel since primary school, years longer than she had. She always felt like she was running behind.
I would ask her, “Tell me how you got into this school, empirically? You made it happen with your grades and your interview. You did all that so you deserve to be here.” I would ask her about her most recent grades. There would be mostly "A"s or "A-"s. “Who made those grades happen? Empirically? You did.”
Rinse and repeat.
You are meeting with (fill in the blank) because you worked hard to be in this position and you have the receipts to prove it. You are in that Ivy League classroom because you have the grades to prove it. You are in those high-level meetings because you climbed up the ladder and have the CV to prove it. You put on those boxing gloves and go out to train in the park, because you have the work ethic to prove it.
Latino USA recently released an episode about independent filmmakers Christina Ibarra and Alex Rivera, the first married couple to each win genius awards at the same time. They are partners, co-directors, parents, and lovers.
Christina mentioned battling some imposter syndrome when she won the award and it was a perfect example of how self-doubt creeps its way in even when we are empirically successful. I mean she’d just won a GENIUS award!
The great news is that you can control and even get rid of imposter syndrome. It goes away with age and maturity, but also with practice and a lot of mental control. It helps to talk about it too.
The more we talk about our battle with imposter syndrome publicly, the easier for us, our kids, and the future generations.
We are taking you on, imposter syndrome! Y no tenemos miedo!
Gracias for reading Malu & You, a space where I share my uncensored and intimate ways of living life on the front lines as a journalist, mother, and compañera.