Listen to The Imposter here.
About 5 years ago I acquired a new potential community partner at work. When we spoke on the phone, he loved the opportunities and wanted to stop by for final questions and to solidify their plan.
Walking into the conference room, I smiled at the client and held out my hand “Mr. Morgan, so glad we were able to meet today.” Mr. Morgan cocked his head to the side for a moment. “Oh, you’re the one I spoke to on the phone?”
I invite Mr. Morgan to sit down and attempt to start the meeting.
“So will anyone else be joining us today?” He mentions with a faint smile.
“No...I’m actually the one who...I’ll be your primary contact for this project.” I deflate.
The project didn’t went in circles the next couple of weeks until I finally broke down and involved an older white director.
I used to pride myself in being an overachiever. I was the one in college with two internships at any given time, a newsletter and helped lead an extracurricular club for no other reason than to pad my resume. I just knew I was destined for something great. I knew I was born to change the world.
Two degrees and four years into my role, that dream went to hell. Despite my experience and job title, any given combination of my age, gender and race created a never ending cycle of proving myself for things I already accomplished.
The microaggressions from clients are subtle. Things like, “So exactly how long have you worked here?”, “So what exactly is your role/title again?”, “Oh wow you’ve managed the program here for that long? But you look so young!”, “Are you the only one in today’s meeting?”
I’ve even had coworkers touch my hair.
When I’m trapped in the cycle of establishing worth to coworkers and clients, I find I hardly recognize myself. I politely smile when a client shakes everyone’s hand but mine. I keep my poise when called “kiddo” by an older male for whom I was managing their event. I laugh when I’m mistaken for being the director’s assistant at a meeting, when I was invited to present a project. I typically need to reintroduce myself to people I’ve met a dozen times at functions.
My day is a broken record of establishing my worthiness to be in a space of decision-making. Battling imposter syndrome in a world I know I can change, but I just can’t quite get at the table, I just can’t raise my voice quite loud enough to be heard.
On a daily basis, my coping mechanisms don’t address the systemic and cyclical issues for women, minorities, and generational issues in the workplace. Some days are better than others.
What used to be an apology is now my rallying cry. yes...you’re working with me.