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Combatting Imposter Syndrome with DiBs

Hi ABSA family and welcome back to a spring quarter blog! On April 18, ABSA collaborated with DiBs (Diversity in Business) on a professional event related to imposter syndrome. During this event, we discussed the different ways that imposter syndrome can impact our experiences and daily lives as well as ways to combat its negative effects.

Meet DiBs and the Panelists:

  • DiBs is run by the Foster School of Business MBA program. It was founded to bring the value of racial diversity to the forefront and is driven by a community that is always willing to share resources, listen, and support one another. DiBs welcomes everyone to participate in discussions and empowers people to speak up.

  • Chris Elliott is a second-year MBA student and the Vice President of Operations. He is graduating at the end of this quarter and striving to be a product manager. He did his undergraduate at Virginia Tech and majored in Economics.

  • Warren Travers is a first-year MBA student and the Vice President of Programming. He is involved in the consulting society as the Vice President of Events. He will be interning at Bain & Company as a Summer Associate this summer.

  • Zharen Gonzales is a first-year MBA student and Co-President of DiBs. She is also in the Foster Creative Group, Vice President of Wellness for MBAA, and involved in Challenge for Charity. She has experience interning at Microsoft and is looking to go into product management in the technology sector.

What is imposter syndrome?

  • Imposter syndrome is the experience of doubting your own abilities, skills, and accomplishments as well as believing you are not as competent as people may perceive you to be.

  • It can stem from multiple factors, such as new roles, personality traits, family upbringing, or social anxiety.

Q & A:

How would you describe your imposter syndrome?

Chris: His imposter syndrome came from all experiences in technology and from San Francisco (the Bay Area). More times than not, he was the only black person in the room and knew he got into the room, but seeing that for the first time is jarring. Where it started, school was more diverse than a lot of workforces.

Warren: His imposter syndrome came from the amount of pressure he was facing, both external (stereotypes and expectations) and internal (wanting to be successful). When he has unrealistic goals, it can make him feel like if he doesn’t meet these internal goals, other people could see that.

Zharen: Imposter syndrome is something that she is still struggling with and can see issues stemming from her childhood thanks to her parents. She felt a continual need to please people which consumes her a lot of the time. Thoughts go into her head often such as feeling like she’s inadequate and unable to measure up to other people in the room and she is well aware of the issue posed within her.

What are some strategies or experiences you have in changing your mindset to face or fight imposter syndrome?

Chris: Realize that you’re here and even though you may find yourself in a room you didn’t expect to be in or somehow you overperformed on accident, look at all the successful people in the room; realize that you deserve to be there as well, there are no mistakes. There are two ways: one is to recognize that you’re there for a reason and two is to celebrate your wins because you were supposed to succeed as well as talk aloud about things you have accomplished which lifts you up.

Warren: Celebrate your wins but also realize that you overcame it. Think about your past as well as how you overcame these moments and work actively to build an environment to work together with others.

Zharen: What helped the most was transparency with peers and finding ways to decompress and verbalize what she was going through and understand that others are going through what you are. Coming to realize that you might be experiencing imposter syndrome and recognizing that you are not alone.

What kinds of activities or resources do you use in terms of combating these things and mental health?

Chris: Get a lot of space if you want it and the opportunity to enact change. Chris is part of a small demographic at Foster that gives him the opportunity to step up and out of his shell. He has shown that he can make an impact by taking action. The general theme is support, it’s important to lean on others when you can. Keeping thoughts in your head all the time doesn’t have to be that way. There are friends who feel the same way as you and can share successes with you as well as how you got around obstacles together.

Warren: He tends to find things he knows he’s good at and is able to be successful in those moments, which gives him the opportunity to fail and allows for more grace within his cohort. Find your strengths, opportunities of growth, where you’re going to learn and progress, and the capability to contribute to the wider team.

Zharen: Resources are pretty much each other and leaning into experiences as well as insights from your peers, professors, and faculty. Realize that if you see a system you don’t necessarily agree with, be open about it, and speak with peers to find a way to overcome it.

For anyone transitioning from high school to college or even college to the workplace and coming to a new environment made you lose confidence, are there any strategies to regain confidence?

Chris: In high school, he played four sports and even had an internship. When he went to a huge university, he decided not to play sports or be in clubs. As a result, his confidence went to the floor. His advice is to start small, don’t try to conquer the whole world at once and instead do a city or town. Maybe join a club, show up, see what’s going on. This will help gain confidence because anything worthwhile takes some courage. Starting small will go miles.

Warren: From his personal experience and these transitional moments in life, it taught him how to navigate and understand that. His favorite quote is “don’t get too caught up into what you’re walking into” because when you find yourself in a new place, you can find success and small victories. Don’t forget the smaller accomplishments to build more confidence and prove yourself. Find avenues to find victories and progress from.

Zharen: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You never know how far you can get unless you put yourself out there. Even if you might fail or make a fool out of yourself, it’s eventually going to happen. The more you understand how open or okay you are with trying and failing back again, that is more admirable than someone who’s too afraid to not try.

What do you want to tell yourself or what advice do you have in your current position when dealing with imposter syndrome?

Chris: Before the MBA program, he said that he was a completely different person. It’s been quite a journey starting virtually to being on campus. He’s grown a lot and made new friends as well as experiences. He recalls how scared he was when he first started and where he is now, especially talking to a current student when he was prospective. Now he’s the one talking to students and realizes he sounds exactly like that too. He can reflect on his own journey and the growth that is always going to happen.

Warren: First is the theme of life: understand what your strengths are and utilize those in settings, such as his creativity going into the consulting field. Second: some skills are very learnable and it’s harder to teach soft skills. Understand what skills you can bring to the table and be able to interpret those in a way that is creative. Remember how you can contribute to the team and bring out the side that’s unique to apply it to the problem.

Zharen: Pay more attention to the long-term payoffs of her actions. She said that a lot of time, she falls guilty on indulging in short-term benefits rather than long-term. It’s important to invest more in things that will pay off in the long run and celebrate how far she’s come.

Thank you for tuning in to this week’s blog post! We hope that this was insightful in realizing that you’re never alone in your feelings and that it’s completely valid to feel imposter syndrome at some point in your life. We are proud of how far each and every one of you have come and grown. As always, stay safe, healthy, and happy and we hope to see you at our next event!

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