My War With Impostor Syndrome

This past week, I was invited to speak at the New England College Heath Association conference on my Empathy-Based Health Promotion work. Conferences to me are the young professional’s gold-mine. Not only do you get a week off from work to travel to a new state or country and eat food on the company’s dime, but you also get to grow and learn from the best of the best in your field. After presenting my work and receiving my first standing ovation, a peer health promotion professional asked me:

 “Where do you get your confidence from?”

I did not have an answer for her right away and I immediately felt myself combating my gendered programming urges to negate her compliment with a humbler statement along the lines of

“I’m not that confident… I was freaking out all last night about presenting in front of all you people.”

I managed to keep my mouth shut.

 The second thoughts that came to the surface were my insecurities:

Why and what was she asking exactly?

Was she asking…

  • Why am I confident… as a black girl?
  • Why am I confident… as a millennial?
  • Why am I confident… as a female-identified person?
  • Why am I confident…in general?

At first, I said that I didn’t know. But as she began to apologize, believing that my silence was a response to offence, it became clear to me that her intentions for asking the question were unimportant but identifying the source of my confidence so that I could share it with others was important.

Here it is:

My confidence is a product of four simple beliefs:

  1.  My belief that God has a plan and a purpose for me.
  2.  My understanding that the word “No” is just the antithesis of the word “Yes”, and not the end of the world.
  3. Fear is a prison that keeps you from reaching your true potential and freedom.
  4. Seizing every opportunity within and beyond my grasp is my responsibility, no one else’s.

An example from the conference, when I was asked to apply to host a workshop at NECHA, I was terrified. To this day, I get incredible stage fright, not because I am afraid of speaking in front of people but because

 I sometimes struggle with flexing my growth mindset.

 Don’t trust anyone that says it is easy or that they have transcended the fight with Impostor Syndrome and perfectionism, 100%. Although I refuse to let it hold me back, I do sometimes fall back into good ole, safe and comfortable fixed-mindset.

  • I worry about people judging me or not taking me seriously because of my age.
  • I worry people will think my work is stupid.

Or worse…

· I worry that someone will ask me a question that I can’t answer in front of people that are smarter than me.

Here’s the take-away Tribe:

I did not let that fear stifle me or keep me from applying. I literally looked myself in the mirror and said “Kris Mereigh, you are SMART, BRAVE and STRONG. There is nothing that anyone can say that can take that from you.”

 I am glad that I did not allow fear to hold me back, because not only did my presentation rock the house, but I was fielding requests for speaking gigs at other colleges for the next two days. I never imagined that speaking gigs would be an outcome of hosting this workshop but there was a grander plan at work for my life.

 What if I had allowed fear to keep me from applying?

Fear is meant to imprison you and keep you from reaching your potential. 

Tribe, You are stronger than the world wants you to believe. Your greatest enemies are your fears and your fixed mindset. They are meant to trap you within your comfort zones and keep you from reaching higher heights. Don’t let it! 

What are you afraid of?

  • Are you afraid to propose your new idea at work, because your supervisor might think it is stupid?
  • Are you afraid to ask for a raise or to negotiate for a higher salary because you fear you might not get the job if you do or they might say No?

I assure you, hearing the word has rarely lead to death. It might hurt but you, friend, are resilient. You will survive. Don’t wait for someone else to propose your idea or to start the business your heart has been pushing you towards. Plan, strategize and then go for it. You lose more of yourself when you allow fear to hold you back.

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