I've been a president for exactly 70 days and there are still mornings when I wake up and pinch myself to make sure this is not a dream. I remember what it felt like on June 30, the night before my official start date of July 1. I thought I was a kid on Christmas Eve, waiting to open the big gift on Christmas morning. My nerves were completely out of control and I may have slept for no more than one hour. There was this nagging feeling inside me that made me feel as if this experience was not real. After all, I am the first African American and fourth woman to serve as president in the college's 78-year history. This is the stuff you read about happening to someone else. Never did I think people would be reading a story about me, making history as the first.
There were times in my 70 day tenure when I second guessed myself about the smallest decisions. There were also moments of doubt. Did I handle this situation correctly? Did they understand what I was trying to say in that meeting? Am I as intelligent as I really think I am? Can I really make a difference? Do I deserve to be here? This is called the "Impostor Syndrome."
Please do not pretend I am the only one that has "suffered" from this so-called diagnosis. You worked extra hard to get to where you are. You've earned the degrees, gained the experience, proven yourself time and time again to others, but there is still that little voice inside that asks if this is real. As a student of a Historically Black College and University we were taught that we had to work twice as hard to gain a seat at the table. It reminds me of the Scandal episode when Olivia was getting a good tongue lashing by Rowan (AKA Papa Pope). His famous line stands true to this day. "You have to be twice as good as them to get half of what they have."
Women especially have a difficult time accepting and acknowledging their own accomplishments. When you finally get that half or whole seat at the table, we remain convinced that somehow our experience is not good enough. Sheridan Francis notes that "Black women are taught to be strong, resilient, and unshakable...because we are taught that these characteristics are necessary to survive a societal system built on oppression and inequality." My point here is that I am human too. After ten weeks as president I have come to understand that I am not an impostor and I worked just as hard as the next person to make it to this level. Every morning before I leave my husband gives me a kiss and says, "you earned it, you deserve it, now go do it."
When good things come your way, say yes, and accept them without question. Never doubt your abilities and the effort you made because you are not an impostor. You earned your seat at the table. Hold on to it and execute as you have always done, because there is a community waiting for you and ready to support the change you will bring. Let your work speak for itself, ask the right questions, lead with integrity, and know that you have what it takes.
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."