If you’re a close friend of mine you know I am far from humble. When I win, I win loud. And I want you to know that I won because I never expected to succeed in the first place, so let me revel in it. Most people believe you should be humble in all things and that it’s unbecoming to brag or to be proud of your accomplishments. I’m here to call bullshit on that because being meek as a person of color, let alone a black creative is humbling enough. Most people, including myself, suffer from imposter syndrome. Being a person of color that imposter syndrome gets amplified times 10. Not only are you telling yourself you don’t belong, but others are giving you the same feeling, sometimes flat out telling you to blend in.
Honestly, the lack of diversity in design is mentally exhausting and I’m just now starting to heal from it. I’ve been working in design for 12 years and I’ve only worked with 1 designer who looks like me. When there’s no diversity in the workplace, you start to get the feeling that your story and your perspective don’t matter. That you’re the outsider, or like many other managers and directors told me, “you just need to drink the kool-aid and blend in.” I believe being creative is about new voices and opinions that question how things are done. How do you grow when everything is homogenous?
I thought myself an imposter up until last year when my studio won an award for design. I thought maybe this was a mistake. I thought perhaps they didn’t have a lot of applicants and I was the defacto choice. It couldn’t be my years and years of hard work; others who work harder than me deserve this, right? I was legitimately having nightmares about people finding out that I’m a fraud and I would never get work again after this. My mind was racing for days up until I got on stage to give my acceptance speech.
During my acceptance speech, I threw away what I wrote because what I wrote was based on the fear of getting found out as an imposter. When I looked around the room, seeing other people of color who work in the same field as me, who deserved their award, accolades, and more. I thought to myself, “I do deserve this.” What I wrote is disrespectful to everyone here, they don’t need another person to add on to their imposter syndrome and put those bad vibes in the air. I instead spoke about being a voice in a room when everyone is telling you to sit down and stay in your lane and to drink the kool-aid. Always remember you bring a unique perspective and your voice is necessary. If you don’t speak up, who will? Never miss an opportunity to have your voice heard. I got off stage nervous as hell, I went over my time limit. Fuck it, I said what I said even if I just said it off the top of my head. I meant every word that I said. I’m glad I got it out. It made me feel much better about what I do and why I love designing, and it made me feel worthy of the praise and the award I earned.
Imposter syndrome is an everyday struggle for me and a lot of other people. The first step to recovery is knowing that you are worthy, you belong, and you’re not alone.