Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. It disproportionately affects high-achieving people, who find it difficult to accept their accomplishments. Many question whether they’re deserving of accolades.
Talisa Lavarry was exhausted. She had led the charge at her corporate event management company to plan a high-profile, security-intensive event, working around the clock and through weekends for months. Barack Obama was the keynote speaker.
Lavarry knew how to handle the complicated logistics required — but not the office politics. A golden opportunity to prove her expertise had turned into a living nightmare. Lavarry’s colleagues interrogated and censured her, calling her professionalism into question. Their bullying, both subtle and overt, haunted each decision she made. Lavarry wondered whether her race had something to do with the way she was treated. She was, after all, the only Black woman on her team. She began doubting whether she was qualified for the job, despite constant praise from the client.
Things with her planning team became so acrimonious that Lavarry found herself demoted from lead to co-lead and was eventually unacknowledged altogether by her colleagues. Each action that chipped away at her role in her work doubly chipped away at her confidence. She became plagued by deep anxiety, self-hatred, and the feeling that she was a fraud.
What had started as healthy nervousness — Will I fit in? Will my colleagues like me? Can I do good work? — became a workplace-induced trauma that had her contemplating suicide.
Today, when Lavarry reflects on the imposter syndrome she fell prey to during that time, she knows it wasn’t a lack of self-confidence that held her back. It was repeatedly facing systemic racism and bias.
Read the full article at HBR.