From “Bad Kid” to Now: Imposter Syndrome and My Self-Esteem Battle by Jasani

15 Oct 2019 12:18 PM

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I am a 20-year-old IT Professional that has 4 years of qualifiable industry experience, and I still think I’m not good enough and I often believe my successes aren’t my own. My childhood emotional abuse has left me with a heightened since of self-doubt and imposterism. Whether it is within my professional aspirations, physical appearance, or sociocultural relationships, I always have this lingering thought of “I don’t belong here” or “you’re not attractive enough to talk to ‘insert name here’”.

I was adopted at the age of 2 and I grew up in urban Des Moines with an overbearing, yet loving (although hard to tell at times), black mom who my sister and I commonly stated could be in the same gang of fictional powerful black women of the likes of Tyler Perry’s ‘Madea’, Martin Lawrence’s ‘Big Momma’, and Eddie Murphy’s ‘Rasputia’.  She was negatively physically and emotionally damaging to both my sister and me. It stemmed heavily from behavioral issues typical of a 4-6 year old who grew up in an underdeveloped, violent, and unruly environment with no viable male role models. My mother would say I was born with an illness that causes me to act and behave “without sense” and I was a ‘bad kid’. When I was ten, I became too much for my mother to handle, so, she sent me to behaviorally corrective boarding school where “they would be more equipped to give me what I needed.” In reality, all I needed was love and occasional affection. I was dropped off with the intent that I would be eighteen when I left. I would never spend another night in my childhood home, I’d have no contact with the extended family, and I’d be on my own. So, growing up, whenever I let someone down or felt as if I may have underperformed, regardless of however minor or major it was, I would shut down and disregard all of my successes and focus on my failures and areas of opportunity. Nothing crushes ones’ spirit greater than thinking they are unlovable.

Now, I claim the dorm directors at the boarding school as my parents because they stuck with me through it all and they watched me grow into the mature, yet often fragile, young man I am. In high school I struggled with my self-image. I had bad acne, terrible posture, a goofy personality and I assumed every compliment was half-assed and ingenuine. I was black but I wasn’t athletic, I preformed musicals over football, I lived in rural Iowa, and I had white parents. It seemed everywhere I went, I wasn’t quite what people expected, and it seemed, I wasn’t want they wanted me to be. But, through all the bullying and sociocultural disparities I endured in middle/high school I managed to find my passion, working with technology.

I dove in and tried to learn as much as I possibly could. When I was 17, I graduated high school, started college and, within a month,I was a certified Apple Mac Technician and I was working with both Apple and the Iowa State University IT department to service machines for both students and faculty. It wasn’t until that job that I learned that I find greater satisfaction in fixing things than creating them and I love to see people smile and feel relief in knowing their problems have been solved. After a year and a half at Iowa State University, I learned the functional skills to take my skillset elsewhere, I started to work at a local Apple Store as a Technical Specialist. I received accolade after accolade surrounding my performance, technical expertise, and overall customer satisfaction. After 5 short months I was promoted to Technical Expert, I highly sought-after position on the journey to the Genius position. I beat out employees that’ve worked for nearly three times longer than my current tenure. But when I got the position, I felt an overwhelming feeling of guilt and my confidence took a turn for the worse.

I kept thinking “do I really deserve this?” and “I’m only 19, am I too young to hold this position?” and “people don’t think I know my stuff, so maybe I don’t”. I let my age and lack of “life experience” cloud the amazing and impactful work I was doing. I felt like a fraud, an imposter. Regardless of how hard I worked I still felt like I wasn’t the person everyone thought I was, I couldn’t possibly live up to the standard that everyone around me has set and expected of me. I left Apple right before the start of this academic year and I am more confident than ever. I work for a company and I am for-hire Apple specialized tech support for businesses and residential clients. I work on a daily basis with business owners and corporation executives to tackle and advise on some of the biggest decisions and challenges businesses face. I’ve started to pursue modeling and portrait photography as my side passion because I am finally acknowledging that maybe, even though I may not be Michael B. Jordan, I’m kind of photogenic and people don’t think I’m ugly. I work with the Des Moines Public School District and the ISU4U Promise program as a weekly mentor to youth who grew up in my same neighborhood.

Regardless of the root cause, imposter syndrome is something that everyone in their lifetime will encounter but just remember positive reinforcement is the key to battling it. With that, I now know that I am smart enough to be working closely with CEOs and other executives. I am worthy of love and the influential people who surround themselves with me. I am confident in my appearance. I am even greater than I could ever fathom. I will keep moving forward and I absolutely deserve to be happy, confident, and proud of my accomplishments at any stage in my life.

In My Words     Ivy College of Business, Black/African American, Imposter Syndrome