A Healthy Culmination of Motivation

06 Mar 2018 8:29 PM

Guest Blogger Guest Blogger

Being a student of color at a predominantly white institution (PWI), acts of oppression, microaggressions, feelings of being unwanted at the university, and many other obstructions serve as motivation for students of color to become leaders in the community to be a part of changing the culture and atmosphere at Iowa State.

I have had the opportunity through my leadership roles on campus to meet some amazing student leaders of color who are accomplishing great feats. However, when being a student leader of color there are many challenges that are directed towards those leaders, and often those battles are hidden. Some of the hidden struggles of being a student leader of color that I have faced and have seen in other leaders are the pressure of success, impostor syndrome, and fear of disappointing the community.

Pressure of success

As a first-generation college student, Black male, and someone from a single parent low-income (and I mean “low”) household, I have always felt the pressure to succeed and to be the child to break the cycle of poverty that plagues many Black households. There are expectations from your family, campus administrators, faculty, staff and peers who may hold you to a high level of excellence. This pressure to avoid disappointing those who are rooting for you often causes you to over exert and/or attempt to solve problems that you aren’t expected to solve.

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor Syndrome as defined by Merriam-Webster is “a false and sometimes crippling belief that one's successes are the product of luck or fraud rather than skill”. The thought of not being good enough WHILE in the position, serves as a hinderance to the confidence of a student leader. This battle is often a silent one, at least it was for me. I feared that my creditability would be ruined, or people would not want to follow someone who “didn’t believe in themselves”. It was not until I opened up about this hidden struggle of mine that I was able to begin taking steps to move past it.

Fear of Disappointing Community

Being a student leader of color, you are often deemed as the representative of everyone who shares the same identity as you. You are often found working in many aspects of the university to ensure that the voices of the marginalized identities you hold are heard. Apart from the fear of disappointing family, friends, or campus partners, I developed a fear of disappointing the community that I fight to represent. As I saw oppression affect friends, organization members, and others around campus, I developed a fear that if I did not step up to represent those communities, that I was doing them a disservice, putting my own academic, physical and mental well-being in jeopardy.


I wrote this article for those that are aspiring or current leaders on campus.


I want to encourage each of you to understand that you are good enough and that you are not alone in some of the hidden struggles. Do not let the pressure of success become a burden, but rather a healthy culmination of motivation. If you find yourself someone who doubts their ability to be a leader and struggling with imposter syndrome, open up about that to someone you trust and receive the affirmation of your ability to lead. If you were appointed/elected into your position, believe that if you are operating with the community’s best interest in mind, understand that you will not disappoint your community. They may not agree with every decision, but that is what comes with being a leader, not a product of an inability to lead. YOU ARE HERE FOR A REASON! Trust me when I say this, the campus is a lot better with you diligently working to fight oppression than without you.

Peace and Love,


In My Words, Leadership Callout     Black/African American, first-generation