When I first accepted my position as a USFWS DFP Fellow I did not realized the magnitude of the program. To me, it was a cool summer position I was lucky enough to receive. I want to really highlight the use of the word lucky here. I never thought about the implications that the word lucky held and how much I have used it to cloud my achievements. I was lucky I passed the exam that I studied hours for; I was lucky I got that job that I spent years gaining experience for; I was lucky I got that scholarship that I poured my heart into. In all actuality, I was not lucky… I worked hard for all of these achievements. To use the word lucky was to undermine my success and it was ultimately the steppingstone to what I have felt during my first week of my fellowship: imposter syndrome.
I wanted to talk about imposter syndrome because it is something that has affected me so personally in many aspects of my life. Imposter syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that your success is deserved. While it is not considered a mental disorder, it is very much a mental phenomenon that can cause real symptoms such as lack of self-confidence, increased anxiety, and self-sabotage. It does not just extend to personal achievements; however, there is also such a thing as racial imposter syndrome. As a multi-ethnic person, I can give a first hand basis of how damaging this type of imposter syndrome can be. My whole life I have been both “too much” and “not enough”; I am too different from either ethnicity to be considered a true member of their communities. I have been told that I only want to be either ethnicity when it benefits me. I have been told that the only reason I was accepted to such a reputable college is because they wanted to increase their diversity rates and I checked the box, as if it wasn’t half of myself that I could truly claim. It came to the point where I actually started questioning the right for me to claim my Latino roots; I almost didn’t apply for my fellowship under HAF because I felt like I was taking the opportunity away from a “true” person of color. If I had not let myself apply, I would not be here writing this post today and I think that is why it is so important to talk about beating this mindset.
Even after the first day of orientation for my fellowship I was letting imposter syndrome hitchhike on my back. Even as I am typing these words, I am allowing it to reside in my mind. Sometimes I beat myself up for allowing myself to stay in this headspace so long. If I learned anything from my week of orientation, however, is that I am not alone. When asked about their feelings towards their upcoming projects, the majority of my cohort said they were feeling also feeling the grip of imposter syndrome. At that moment I realized how common it is and how important it is to talk about. If you are feeling stuck thinking you are unworthy of your success, I want you to know that many of us feel the same way and many of us are wrong. There is a reason why you were selected to be where you are now. Do not feel guilty for being yourself and do not be scared to celebrate your accomplishments. Most importantly, do not let these thoughts of unworthiness be what stops you from attempting to reach your goals. You are exactly who you are meant to be and exactly where you are meant to be.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP
Location: Sacramento Regional Office