It’s an issue that plagues countless people, no matter the race, gender, or socio-economic status. However, no one talks about the particular kind of imposter syndrome that I, and many other black women face. I have spent innumerable hours overthinking all of the ways in which I wasn’t good enough; refused to raise my hand in class because I didn’t want to get the answer wrong and then be labeled “The un-intelligent black girl who got in due to a quota”. Jobs that I refused to apply for as soon as I saw even one little qualification I didn’t have. Shrinking myself, making myself smaller, limiting myself only to what was comfortable. I never wanted any more attention, negative, or positive, than what was already associated with how I looked.
And then I had a moment Junior year in my European history class.
During a class discussion, I had a comment on the subject material that I felt was valid and maybe even thought provoking. However, In my scared ignorance, I let the idea pass, listening to the other students share their thoughts. Just when I thought the topic shifted, a nondescript white boy raised his hand...and blurted out almost the exact thing I wanted to say! Just worse, with no nuance, or really any actual commentary. The class continued and that was that. I doubt he even thought about it, even as he was making the comment. I realized then and there that this same dude would probably go on to be CEO of a company because he, like most white men are socialized consciously, or not, to not fear inadequacy, since society validates the things they say, or do. Right or wrong.
So black women, especially my dark-skinned sisters. We are the most educated group by race and class, the largest rising demographic of business owners, who have consistent, intelligent commentary and ideas...Why don’t we start having the unbridled confidence of some of these mediocre white boys?
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash
What a lot of black women, myself included didn't and don't fully understand is that many of the feelings, fears, and thoughts we have about ourselves are in our minds and reinforced, not necessarily by our day to day lives and interpersonal interactions but by what we see in the media and sometimes, the black community itself. Dark-skinned black women especially grow up having to be perfect, or else. Our looks have to be perfect, other-wise we feared being labeled ugly, We were told to focus rigorously on academics and taught that we have to be twice as good to get half as far.
Many of us really fear some dire life consequences if we don't go for that second degree, or if we don't graduate with a 3.6, or higher GPA. We fear that if we show up to that job interview dark, a women, and black that the interviewers are just waiting for us to have one less qualification, or one mistake on our resume, or one imperfection at all so they can go and hire a non-black candidate. However, when you think about it, what is really stopping us? Will it matter if, god forbid I only have Bachelor's and not a Master's, or P.H.D, or if I didn't graduate in the top 20% of my class, or if I forget a comma? Spoiler alert...It actually didn’t matter; Which leads me to another facet of life I think dark-skinned black women need to understand more.
If you are pleasant, fun to be around, and connect with your peers on a genuine level, you tend to get further in life regardless of what you look like.
No, I am not saying that the system of white supremacy, colorism, racial biases, and other factors do not exist and cannot hinder you. Nor am I invalidating the experience of black women who didn’t get certain jobs because of her skin tone. These things absolutely happen and I understand how those happenings can make you feel like nothing you ever do will matter because no one will look past race. I am also not saying that mediocre white people, men especially, don't get where they are in life simply because they are white.
However, I am saying that your demeanor, friendly-ness, and willingness to genuinely embrace all experiences, not just those relegated to black folk can open more doors for you than bitterness and thinking that the world is out to get you because you’re black. Now, I happily and confidently go after what I want, say the things on my mind that I think are valuable, move in circles I once thought wouldn't accept me; And when I receive a rejection letter, or lose an opportunity to someone else, I no longer think it was because I wasn’t perfect enough to be this black applying for this type of job. I now ask for feedback on the areas I can improve on, thank them for their time, and chuckle that it’s “their loss” and prepare myself for the opportunity that is meant for me.
So I implore every single black woman to smile a little more smugly, hold your head higher than everyone else, do that thing you’ve always wanted to do but didn’t because “it’s for white people”, and walk into every opportunity like it's already yours. Most of the time, our abilities are just waiting for our mentality to catch up.
Liv is a new blogger for DDS Magazine. She graduated University in 2018, with a degree in History & English Lit and in her free time is an avid creative writer, History & Fashion enthusiast, as well as a cat-mom to three kittens. When she is not creating, she works at a children's non-profit and enjoys spending her weekends doing Pilates, hiking, shopping and indulging in Sci-fi novels.