I often hear stories of imposter syndrome in my line of work, especially from the underrepresented and often marginalized populations who are challenging the normalcy of white supremacy in workplace cultures. The one thing we all need to understand in our attempt to diagnose ourselves or others as having imposter syndrome, is the difference between feeling like an imposter and feeling like you are imposing in a space.
I say this because I want people to understand the difference between IMPOSTER Syndrome and IMPOSER Syndrome (I have been working on a methodology for this, there’s more to come). We can often feel like we are imposing within a toxic space because it makes us feel unwelcomed and even unaccepted due to systemic oppression and policies that reiterate it as a normality as opposed to a feeling of unworthiness. I think BIPOC women often misunderstand the difference because of the limited exposure to both concepts. Imposter syndrome puts an emphasis on the victim and almost seems like victim blaming. Imposer syndrome leads to a responsibility that is required of workplace culture to stop making people, especially those who are non homogenous, from feeling this way.
The major difference between the two is an imposer is the feeling of being a burden or imposing in a workplace due to your identities. An imposter on the other hand doesn’t feel worthy enough to be in a space. Imposter syndrome is the reiteration that you are not qualified for a role and you don’t belong there because of your lack of competence and this is brought upon by one’s own beliefs. Imposer syndrome is created due to the unfair treatment of a human being because of their identities, including behavioral, being outside of the norms and expectations of a culture.
To my underrepresented populations, the marginalized, the oppressed and trying to figure it the fuck out, you need to learn the difference. Don’t create a self fulfilling prophecy of imposter syndrome when that is not your headspace. You may not be feeling unworthy, just unwelcomed. Know the difference.