Black Girl Magic Imposter Syndrome

It was 9am on a Monday morning. I wore my favorite black dress- a sleeveless turtleneck midi-style. After periodically not wearing makeup, I decided to put on a full face – lipstick, eyeliner and all the fixins. The saying goes, “when you look better, you do better’ and I wanted my presence flawless and dignified. I reluctantly clicked the zoom link and was greeted by white faces and some black boxes.

The Friday prior, I had the privilege of presenting a two-hour Black History Month presentation for over 700 eager students. It was BLACK GIRL MAGIC DOPENESS for a complete 120 minutes and the school administrators and the staff sang my praises. 72 hours later, the victory of Friday faded and I was nervous and felt like an imposter on this Zoom meeting. But Why? 

Imposter syndrome is loosely defined as doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud. But what is not often acknowledged with imposter syndrome is that the feeling is rooted in someone’s minimalist feelings or actions towards you. Turn to your neighbor and say “Molly and Issa’s relationship from Insecure Season 4!” I digress….

It dawned on me that my Black Girl Magic never disappeared or was a fraud, but it only bloomed and was at its best self in supportive and nourishing environments. The truth was, I was sitting on a Zoom call with the same arrogant client who, just a few days prior, demanded I create and send meeting invites to all of their colleagues- completely ignoring the accomplishment and respect of my Director’s title.  This microaggression had affected me more than I was aware and resulted in my uneasy feeling and hindered my performance. 

Photo of Jennifer Thompkins

The school, however, celebrated my accomplishments and praised me for being a confident African American Woman who is an Ivy League college graduate, an avid supporter of social justice and a brilliant youth program developer. It was this atmosphere that gave me life and I shared that life with over 700 students. 

I tell this story because far too often we, as black women, go through the roller coaster ride of adequacy. We experience a large win and an hour later we feel inadequate because we fail to meet the expectations of someone or something that has planted seeds of doubt in our ability. Quite frankly, navigating these highs and lows is exhausting! And even more sad is the amount of Black Women so overthrown by these highs and lows that a whole generation of young people are not seeing doctors, lawyers, executives who look like them….Whew Chile…this a lot!  Excuse me while I do some much needed self care….

Ok, I’m back! 

The thing is, unfortunately, we cannot control other people’s assumption about our Magic! And thinking that we can apply our “Black Woman Superhero Syndrome” to change them will result in stress on our bodies (the leading cause of death for black women is heart disease). This idea of taking care of others (yes, that also means caring what others think of you) is what we have done for generations! It has been the black woman’s claim to fame and popular characterization. But I’m here to tell you that we have to change the narrative and what these toxic and deadly generational norms we break and heal in our lives, we break and  heal for future generations. 

Do not get me wrong, I’m not saying not to care and love one another. This is a commandment from the Bible! However, I am saying, simply, go and exist in places where you are LOVED and WANTED. This holds true for work spaces, to family, to romantic relationships, to church (that is a whole new article in itself!) Black women, we deserve love and acceptance that doesn’t require suffering first. 

When we exist in places that love on us and accept us, we see our Black Girl Magic come alive and imposter syndrome becomes an ever fading history! So this Women’s History Month, let’s not only celebrate the victories but bury some of the toxic history. 

Black women, here is my affirmation to you. Beware of the “stay humble” and “you’re doing too much folk!” You’re making strides, you’re inspiring a new generation, you’re making HerStory and leaving a legacy! Pop off, sis- it’s your time…it’s always been!

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