Dealing with imposter syndrome as a minority

Communications and Engagement Assistant Fatima Malik has written about imposter syndrome and how it specifically affects people from minority groups. Is this feeling of failure something that you have experienced? Read on to see Fatima’s perspective and what to do to overcome this common feeling.

Imposter syndrome can be loosely defined as an internalized belief where an individual doubts their capabilities and talents, with the persistent fear they’ll be ousted as a ‘fraud’. This phenomenon of feeling ‘less than’, incompetent or undeserving is not unique and commonly pervades the workplace, especially if you’re a minority. People of colour and women in particular are disproportionately affected by it. Imposter syndrome is an uncomfortable feeling of constant inadequateness and questioning whether you truly belong in your role despite having the necessary qualifications. Marginalized groups often downplay their achievements, putting it down to factors like ‘luck’ or ‘diversity quotas’ rather than recognising the flair of their own abilities. These feelings of incompetence stem from perpetuated falsehoods. For example, minorities are often told that they must work ‘twice as hard’ in order to be noticed as the ‘odds are stacked against them’. This misconception leads to high achievers who are successful in their career endeavours to feeling like they have to continuously prove themselves. Imposter syndrome can gnaw at your confidence, leaving you in a chronic state of worry and anxiety. Systemic racism and subtle microaggressions in the workplace also add to the mental toll for people of colour who already feel like outsiders. So you may wonder, what is the solution?  

In order to shake off and combat this feeling of imposter syndrome, here are a few pieces of recommended advice:  

  • Talk to someone: Reaching out and speaking to someone can provide some much needed clarity and relief about your feelings. Through having open and honest conversations with friends, family or even co-workers, you may realise you’re not alone in your struggles. Imposter syndrome is universal and experienced by all of us at some point in our lives. You may even want to book an appointment with a Careers Guidance Consultant on KCC to talk things through further.  
  • Separate your feelings from the facts: We can often be our own worst critics. Remind yourself of the fact that all your accomplishments were only achieved through your personal work ethic and not some kind of fluke. Dips of uncertainty and self-doubt are completely normal and all apart of the career journey. Don’t let these feelings overshadow or plague your capacity to develop and learn. Take note of your success, think back to a time where your colleague complimented you on a project or your manager gave you positive feedback on your work performance. Let these moments be representative of your potential on days you don’t feel your best.  
  • Avoid comparing yourself to others: As famously once said, comparison really is the thief of joy. Everyone’s career trajectory is different and there isn’t a single way to attain success. You’re not in the office as a result of tokenism, you got the job because you earned it just like everybody else. Your only competition is with yourself. Focus on elevating your talents and becoming a better version of your yesterday’s self.  
  • Make use of the resources on Keats: There is a range of key information, events and services offered on Keats that are tailored towards helping you overcoming this feeling of imposter syndrome. Go check it out 


Do remember: You are worthy, you are deserving and you are most definitely capable!