Early in my career, I often felt like I was not enough and that I didn’t have what it takes to reach the next level at work.
Besides the socio-cultural pressures to conform to mainstream standards of beauty, etiquette, and status that did not reflect my true identity, I often struggled to find role models who look like me and could provide guidance and support in the workplace. This made it difficult to feel secure in my capabilities and stunted my growth in the workplace; it led to feelings of isolation, and reinforced the message that I didn’t belong. I felt that success could only be achieved through being inauthentic and sacrificing my true self.
Unfortunately, imposter syndrome is a widespread issue. It impacts up to 70 percent of people at some point during their professional lives, and it is particularly prevalent among Black and Latina women, who frequently face cultural and gender-based discrimination.
Although these issues are systemic and not something that can be solved just at the individual level, I knew I had to work to overcome these feelings. I had to liberate myself from the beliefs attached to expectations that contradicted my core values and convictions. Drawing from my experience, I have five pieces of advice to help Latinas conquer imposter syndrome in the workplace.
Our inner critic can be cruel by amplifying our fears, feeding off of our limiting beliefs, crushing our self-confidence, and diminishing our sense of self-worth. It is essential to take a deep breath, practice self-compassion, and reflect on what is causing you to feel like an imposter. Acknowledge and accept that imposter syndrome is real and that you are not alone in this feeling.As Latinas, we may have received messages that asking for help is shameful so we may often feel guilty when we do, but we must remember that nobody succeeds alone. There are people who care about us and are willing to offer support, and everyone deserves it—including you.
Reflect on your achievements regularly and make plans to celebrate them. No matter how small they may seem, they are worthy of acknowledgement. Appreciating your successes can help you recognize your worth and focus more on what you’ve done right, elevating you during times when you may feel self-doubt. Pro tip: This is a good list to have when you’re going into a performance review and/or salary negotiation. If you’re shy and want to practice first, you can nurture celebration within your teams, where there are often many chances to celebrate joint successes you contributed to.
The people who surround you have a lot of power to help or hinder your success. Choose people who appreciate your successes and recognize your value. Build meaningful relationships with mentors, sponsors, and colleagues who can provide guidance and support and offer a positive perspective when doubts arise. In addition, having supportive connections can give you the courage to be vocal about any challenges you may face in the workplace.
4. Embrace Your Unique Value
It is essential to recognize and appreciate the unique value you bring to the professional table and to embrace your unique cultural identity and experiences. Make a list of the skills, talents, expertise, lived experiences, and backgrounds that make you who you are, and keep it close by. Hispanic culture often values humility, but this doesn’t mean you have to be modest in your career. If you don’t start advocating for yourself, it will be hard for others to know your value and advocate for you.
While there may be many odds against us as Latinas, we have full control of our narrative and the path we take. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects and the outsider status, choose which parts of our culture to embrace (like a great work ethic) and which to let go of (like measuring our worth on how much of ourselves we can sacrifice). Focus on the positive and what you hope to achieve.
We must adopt the attitude and mentality of courage and resilience that we use for others, envision a successful and unique future for ourselves, and take the necessary steps to make it a reality.
Imposter syndrome is difficult but not impossible to overcome. There are concrete practices you can adopt to help you chip away at it. You have the power to overcome this challenge and reach new heights in your career.
Take the first step today and make a commitment to practice at least one of the five points I shared: be kind to yourself, celebrate, build a support system, embrace your unique values, and change the narrative.
Commit and relish in the knowledge that you are in the great company of Latinas everywhere who are overcoming their doubts and fears.
Remember: you are worthy, you are capable, and you are enough.
Ilhiana Rojas is an Executive & Leadership Transformation Strategy Coach, a DEI Consultant, a Hispanic advocate, a Bestselling Author, and an international motivational speaker.