On Impostor Syndrome

Back in March, I participated in a conference on “nerd lit” at Miami University. I was invited to be on the main plenary panel (with three other speakers) as well as present my steampunk character building workshop as a breakout session during the event. It was a paying gig at an official undergraduate academic conference, but in the days leading up to it, the thought of participating started to make me a little queasy. And there’s a very easy explanation for that — Impostor Syndrome.

Suffering from Impostor Syndrome — “the psychological pattern in which people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud'” — is most likely common among people of color, especially black people. And why wouldn’t it be? We live in a society that tells marginalized people that they aren’t good enough to have the things that they receive. Whether that reception is through hard work or pure luck, we are always made to feel that we aren’t worthy. A daily form of resistance is telling yourself that no one has the right to question the benefits you’ve reaped.

As the only person of color presenting at the Miami conference, it began to make me question why I had been chosen in the first place. I was recommended by a friend of a friend but why? For what I could actually contribute or for “color”? I never got a satisfactory answer. In the end, it didn’t matter. I did my thing, I got my coins and I moved on. I was exhausted by the end of the day but I made it through. (I even managed not to snap and read for filth the YT woman who kept trying to correct me at several points during the day…but that’s another story for another time.)

I had to think of it this way: I’ve presented at a number of events, representing and promoting Midwest BSFA as well as Airship Ashanti, and I have done numerous interviews on both groups and why unleashing your inner geek is important, especially for African-Americans. As the old heads used to say, “I’m not new to this, I’m true to this.” So why should it still come as a shock every time someone asks me to participate in something? I just had to pull a Stuart Smalley and keep it pushing. Because at the end of the day, no one believes in you the way you believe in you. And that has to be your starting point.

To my point of not letting Impostor Syndrome get you down, I’m going to be part of a Dungeons & Dragons art show this fall! Beginning later this month, I will join a group of local creatives who will play two D&D campaigns throughout the summer, then write about their experiences and have them illustrated for a show at Chase Public in Camp Washington. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this turns out!

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