How being raised by Asian parents made me an impostor

The enemy will attack when you’re resting on your laurels. I grew up being told to become a modest girl who succeeds in silence, never brags, and tries to downplay my abilities.

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

Impostor syndrome describes high-achieving individuals who, despite their objective successes, fail to internalize their accomplishments and have persistent self-doubt and fear of being exposed as a fraud or impostor.

Below is the impostor cycle beginning with the assignment of achievement-related tasks by Jaruwan Sakulku, James Alexander in The Impostor Phenomenon.

The Impostor Cycle

How I overcame it

It's not easy at all. I usually have to practice the fake it till you make it thing. Below is what I've done in the past year.

Talking to my mentor

During 6 months at DesignLab, I’ve been lucky enough to have Dhaval Ghandi as my mentor, who calls me every week to support me with my assignments or sometimes just to cheer me up. The boot camp was intensive and exhausting to me when I had to learn on my own. Every time I told him “I’m not good enough”, he immediately showed me how much I’ve improved since the beginning of this journey. A mentor can share about the struggles they’ve been through and give you helpful advice. If you don’t have a mentor, reach out to a therapist or someone capable of empathizing and encouraging you. If you’re a designer, ADPList may help.

Letting go of the inner perfectionist and be kind to myself

Knowing that I can’t be an expert in just a few months and perfectionism is counterproductive. There were some days when I stayed up till 6 AM to finish the deadline because I changed my mind the day before, that I didn’t like the outcome of my design so I had to start again. But the real solution was easier than that: I could have just submitted it and improved later because it’s a lifelong journey. Prioritize your physical and mental health.

Journaling

You are what you think. I write a journal as a self-reflection exercise and try to navigate my thought patterns positively. Later when I reread it, my mind will be fulfilled with good energy. Self-reflection enables me to evaluate what I’ve been through and gain perspective on what truly matters to me. Besides, journaling helps me catch the negative thoughts crossing my mind, so I’m aware of them and change the way I think by positive self-talk.

Celebrate my success

This is an important part of accepting what I've done is already good enough. There will always be room for improvement in the future, but I can't be hard on myself for not making it perfect. None of us can. A ‘thank you’ with a smile when receiving compliments is one step closer to uplifting your mood and enhance self-belief.

  • Separate feelings from facts
  • Take note of your accomplishments
  • Stop comparing
  • Turn impostor syndrome on its head
  • Say “yes” to new opportunities

In a nutshell

I appreciate my parents for teaching me to become a modest person to fit in the Vietnam society despite hating myself sometimes for downplaying my ability when I’m fully capable. I was not aware of impostor syndrome earlier because I thought that I was just simply modest, even though it's more serious than that.

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