Updated: Jan 27
“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself-the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us - that’s where it’s at.” ~ Jesse Owens
Hey everybody, thank you all who have continuously read! I genuinely value everyone that takes the time out to read my entries! Every reader is much appreciated, and there is more to come! We are back with some mental health/psych related entries; this entry focuses on the imposter syndrome. I hope y’all enjoy it!
As we are about to enter the Spring semester (well at least my university), remote learning has been such an uncomfortable change for me. Waking up 15 minutes before class just to roll over, grab my laptop, log in to zoom, and… scroll on Twitter. This impersonal way of learning makes me reminisce about the memories of me walking around campus before Mr. Rona (I personally think COVID is a man, only men ruin people’s lives to this extent lol). Though I don’t miss waking up a little early for a small commute, I do miss seeing everybody traveling to who knows where, the many clubs/organizations tabling outside the library, the food trucks posted outside the classroom building, and much more. The memories from three years ago on Snapchat reminding me of my first year as a college student makes me smile while not paying attention to my zoom lecture. As a senior in college, I can’t help but shake my head and smile while reflecting on my experience.
Unfortunately, that was not the case for a young, Black woman by the name of Christin Evans at Stephen F. Austin University and her experience as a first-year in college. Instead of enjoying her first experience in college, she was the victim of potential racial profiling and swatting*. Her roommates and an additional seven girls made a false claim that she threatened to stab them with a pair of scissors. Due to this, the police raided the dorm at 3 o’clock in the morning with guns drawn. I can’t even imagine the immediate fear that she had, her entire life could have ended due to the blatant ignorance of others, especially during this climate. Evans said, "I was looking forward to making friends and having a good time on the cheer team. But since this happened, it's made it really really really hard ... I'm just taking it one day at a time.”
(2020 Jan 18) Overcoming impostor syndrome. Warriors Way. https://warriorsway.com/overcoming-impostor-syndrome/
Instead of this young lady beginning her college journey with club mixers, hanging out in the dining hall, or just enjoying her experience, she now is faced with unimaginable trauma. As a Black college student, I have seen and experienced my fair share of acknowledging the stark difference between myself and the university culture. Sometimes, those differences can cause people to experience imposter syndrome. Suzanne Imes, a clinical psychologist defines the imposter syndrome as an “internal experience of intellectual phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable, or creative despite evidence of high achievement.”
When I think of the imposter syndrome, I often relate it to the Doll Test conducted within the 1940s. This test conducted by Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark (Shoutout to the Black Psychologists!), consisted of testing the positive and negative connotations young children place on people through dolls. The results showed that most children associated negative things towards the Black doll and positives with the white one. Yet, the most heartbreaking part, for me, has always been the very depressed look on these children's faces when they are reluctant to say they look like the Black doll. This same test exposed the world to how profound internalized racism is within our innocent youth and overall society. It is sad to say that this concept of being inadequate is still just as profound today. In fact, the Doll Test has been continuously conducted within different regions that demonstrate the same unfortunate outcome that racism is instilled in our social understanding.
The possibility of internalized and experienced racism, lack of student/teacher representation, a complete change of lifestyle, and more can deeply contribute to the imposter syndrome within our Black students. As mentioned in my To Be or Not Be entry, institutional spaces are playgrounds for societal expectations, and schools are no different. The imposter syndrome can often result in higher levels of depression and anxiety, doubts about continuing education, dropping in academic performance, and lack of exploring school-related activities.
It is vital that we nurture our students throughout their education because it’s obvious that the universities cannot. Especially since we are beginning our next academic experience remotely, there needs to be a focus on addressing this issue both online and in-person. I can say for myself, I have never felt so out of place as a student with my education. I’m having difficulty believing in myself as a student because I feel so disconnected from my academics.
To my students feeling a little out of place during this crazy college experience, let’s work towards making it our space. It took a lot to get us here, and I’ll be damned to let these institutions allow us to feel like we don’t belong. Nurturing your own culture, personality, and goals at your institutions can really provide a sense of comfort in this experience. So, I took the liberty to make a visual with tips on combating imposter syndrome, I hope you enjoy!
Henderson, D. (2017 Apr 11) Why do students of color feel like an imposter in school?. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-trajectory-race/201704/why-do-students-color-feel-imposter-in-school
Martinez, P. (2020 Sept 29) Black student says police barged into her dorm after white classmates allegedly made false report. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/police-storm-black-students-dorm-room-after-white-classmates-allegedly-file-false-report/