As we’ve celebrated the days of Women’s History Month and see the countless posts and acknowledgements of amazing women and their accomplishments. I read and learned about women taking measures and pushing past boundaries to show just how capable they are. I even thought about the women I know personally in my life that are unknowingly inspiring me and taking steps to achieve their goals and aspirations.
However, it seems as though despite the countless posts that I’ve liked, the virtual cheers and whoots that I give, and the pages of historical recountings of women changing the world – there is always one woman I can never seem to properly credit. When it comes to staring at myself and the accomplishments that I’ve achieved and the space that I’ve managed to be in, there’s always a pecking feeling that I haven’t done everything that I could’ve done to prove that I belong there.
I can’t necessarily cite the origins of my feelings but they might have stemmed from honestly flawed comments I overheard in high school about certain people getting things “only because they’re black” or “only because they’re a woman” or “they are only getting this because [blank] company is trying to pander.” Just a slew of harmful language that completely discredited marginalized people from success that they achieved through the talent and hard work of their own.
Aside from that, I personally felt that a defining early memory for me when it came to experiencing Imposter Syndrome would be my moments in my high school debate and speech. I remembered that despite the moments I would get a placing for the competition, or I would leave a competition with a shiny trophy in hand. I still felt like I wasn’t good enough to call myself a congressional debater. That there was probably a fluke or a “good explanation” for why somebody like me managed to leave with something. What I thought was probably just thoughts that were rooted in competition and adolescence followed me into adulthood and took an even more insidious form.
When I got into college at NC State, I found myself really feeling like an absolute imposter in a majority of the extracurricular activities I attended and even in my major. Whenever I found myself being one of the few women in room (the number was even smaller when it came to Black women), that’s when I would drop an anvil of pressure on myself. This came in from different weights of discouraging thoughts like:
“I don’t know about this topic 100%, so I probably shouldn’t speak so I don’t seem stupid.”
“I should be doing more to earn my place here, I need to do exceptionally well so that I can represent us well.” Me feeling like I need to go above and beyond to represent fellow Black women.
“Maybe I’m not as good at this as I think, everyone else so much more vocal than I am so I must be doing something wrong.”
I found myself draining myself of the excitement that I felt for being in the space to begin with and for the subject that I was passionate about. I internalized the flawed thoughts of people in my past and considered it as a truth for myself. I defined myself from the hollow assumptions that people may have about me rather than looking at the reality of the countless things that I’ve accomplished and the obstacles that I’ve pushed through. These accomplishments are not to be defined by merely tangible things like a shiny trophy or another bullet on a resume. Moreso, through the experiences that they have given me and the personal growth I’ve gained from challenging myself in spaces that were originally uncomfortable to me.
I’ve accomplished certain milestones in my life like graduating NC State. I’ve taken steps to do things that people around me have never done before like dancing and stand-up. I’ve shown time and time again that I have the heart of a hard worker and a persistence to learn and improve.
Recently I’ve taken time to recognize that and I wanted to take the steps necessary to quiet my discouraging thoughts and focus on the main reason that I take space anywhere: to learn and to improve. When I was in my data analytics certification class, I found those moments when I would begin to criticize and question myself. My worth. My experience. Either because I felt like I wasn’t proving myself by speaking up more or I didn’t immediately understand something to its fullest extent.
However, I began to assure myself and lessen the pressure on myself with this reminder: “If I already knew everything that there was to know regarding this subject, I would be wasting my time by being here.” I deserve to be in this space because I am willing to learn and improve. I am working just as hard as everybody else here and want to leave with new experiences and knowledge. In fact, the greatest tool that I found when it comes to addressing something I don’t know, fearing that it would diminish my worth. I face it with an acceptance that I don’t know about the subject – but with an assurance that I am capable to learn about it.
With that being said, I not only planned to take this Women’s History Month to recognize women before me and those alive today that are doing great things – but I want to take the time to recognize myself. I take time to recognize the small accomplishments that I’ve made simply to get through the day. I also take time to recognize the accomplishments of the past that I’ve never allowed myself to celebrate. Myself, as an individual, is just as important of a person to credit this month. I put myself alongside the praises that I use to only hold for women that have “obviously done much more than me.” I use this month to give credit where credit has been long overdue, and I urge you to do the same as well.
Raniah Jeanlys is a proud Haitian-American woman that was born in Pétion-Ville, Haiti and then grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. She recently graduated from North Carolina State University majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Law and Justice. She enjoys being an active student and participating in activities outside of school like dancing and volunteering at animal shelters.