Volume 2, Issue 12: Is it Imposter Syndrome or is it White Supremacy?

Hi friends! Today’s newsletter is something that has been heavily on my mind for at least half a decade, maybe even almost exactly a decade. I started writing for Book Riot just over 5 years ago and I believe that triggered a Facebook post from me about my imposter syndrome.

“First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s, impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.” via “Feel Like a Fraud?” from the APA.

So, I was 37 and posted about my “imposter syndrome” on Facebook and a friend, who is also Black and queer, asked, “What is that?” So, I gave them a quick and dirty definition of imposter syndrome and they bluntly responded, “You don’t have that.”

When I tell you that this response has had me SHOOK for the past five years, I am not exaggerating. It is constantly on my mind. Initially, my inner liberal white queer lady wanted to get my knickers in a twist and say, “How dare you try to tell me about myself? *I* get to define myself how I see fit. *I* am the expert on my own experience.” And so forth and so on, outrage outrage, meow meow meow. You know the drill.

But the thing is, and yes, I’m going to stereotype my people, the thing is that Black people are often incredibly talented at seeing through most bullshit. We rarely suffer the bullshit of others and we will straight up tell you about yourself, especially if you are also Black. All pretense is stripped away. We have what we call “Real Talk.” I’m reminded of this Twitter thread:

If I had a time machine and traveled back in time to talk to 12-year-old me and I told her that I, that WE, have imposter syndrome, she would laugh in my face. “The fuck is this shit? You what now? Not on my watch!” would likely be 12-year-old me’s response. Because I never used to be like this. I never used to doubt myself or at least, I would never say that I doubt myself because I don’t actually doubt myself. More on that in a bit.

In junior high I did a report on Alexander the Great or Peter the Great (can’t remember which) and I thought to myself it’s a shame that these dudes died and didn’t get called “the Great” until they were no longer around to hear it. I didn’t want that to happen to me, so I legit started signing my name “Patricia the Great.” On my homework. In yearbooks. When email came to be, it was one of my AOL addresses and I signed emails with “PTG.” There are legitimately still people living on this planet who refer to me as PTG.

Growing up, I was told my abilities were limitless. Truly, that I could do/be whatever I want and I believed it. But I’m going to come clean about something: I still think this. Half the shit I do in life is because I have the confidence of a mediocre white man and I think, “I can do that shit” AND THEN I DO IT. 

But no one wants to hear that. No one wants to hear from a Black Asian queer woman that she is secure in her own competence and that she loves herself and she knows she deserves great things. Because people want humility. People want people who look like me and love like me to make ourselves small. To dim our own lights so that their lights may look brighter in comparison to us. They convince us that it’s gauche to be confident.

Ah yes, the unholy trifecta of capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.

And you know what? They had me for a while. In my most recent annual review with my boss, she asked for my 5-year plan and I said, “Bold of you to think I have a plan.” She said that I am incredibly good at my job and I retorted, “Funny you say that because I am making things up as I go along and I am actually three kittens in a trench coat.”

Yes. I said those things. To my boss. In my review. Thankfully, my current boss is a great sport and obviously I feel safe enough to run my mouth in this way.

You see, my last trash fire of a job had gaslit me so horribly, so fully, that I started to doubt my abilities. And I wanted desperately to be liked and to fit in. So I started making myself small and the smallness started to bleed into other parts of my life, other relationships, other conversations.

Friends. FRIENDS. That shit is bananas. That I would shrink myself, that I would not be my full self, to be at the same level of certain others instead of expecting them to rise up. Who benefits from this behavior? Certainly not me.

And yeah, in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, it is an act of revolution for me to sit here and say, “You know what, fuck you. I am fucking great. I am intelligent and clever. I’m hilarious AND cute.”

If there are people out there that react negatively to my having high self-esteem, that’s on them and that says more about them than it does about me. When those of us who are marginalized don’t love ourselves, then we all lose. We are denying the world of our greatness. We are so caught up trying to manage our low self-esteem, or in my case, pretending that I’m less than, that we don’t have the energy to fight against the white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy which is at the root of why so many of us feel this way. Check out Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome by Ruchika Tulshyan and Jodi-Ann Burey for some further reading.

So, as is sometimes necessary to initiate change, I am sick of my own bullshit. It takes extra energy for me to be like, “Who me? Oh no. I couldn’t possibly” instead of just saying, “Yes, I am a competent adult and I know what I’m doing” and then just do the thing, whatever that thing may be. And honestly, I’m petty and I hate the idea of anyone benefiting off of me making myself small therefore, I am done. I am done being small and I will resume being great. I would love for you to join me. Don’t let the bastards win.

Gratuitous photo of me and specifically my eyebrows which I got done by the Fairy Glow Mother

That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.

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