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I remember it like it was yesterday. A page came while I was working on the wards as a resident. It was my program director.

Her: “I need you to come by my office so that I can speak with you.”
Me: *freaking out* “I can come now if you want.”
Her: “Sounds good.”

Before I could stop it, the narrative began in my head:

“See? The other shoe has dropped. They know what you’ve worried they’d find out all along.

That you aren’t who they think you are. Or rather you are who they think you are. And now it’s being confirmed.

Told you.”
I started trying to counter it. To fight back against that pesky, persistent #ImposterSyndrome voice:

Me: “I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m a good resident. Not the best resident. But I am a pretty okay one.”
Voice: “You don’t even understand vectors on EKGs.”

Me: “Maybe it’s something mundane.”
Voice: “Maybe they’re putting you on probation like they did the other two Black residents.”
Me: *thinking*
Voice: “And maybe YOU are gonna mess it up for ALL the Black students from HBCUs. Or Black trainees period.”

I felt sick.
By the time I walked in, I was nearly in tears and had palpitations. Her administrator waved me in while balancing a phone receiver on her shoulder.

Her: “Hey Kimberly! She’s expecting you. Just head on in.”

I nodded and did as she said.

The Voice laughed out loud.
My hand was trembling when I knocked on the door. For a split second, I considered just running out of there.

Maybe they’d forget.
Or I could disappear into the shadows and go unnoticed.

Like a real imposter.
My PD gestured for me to sit across from her. I registered her eyes and body language. They were warm, open.

Voice: “That doesn’t mean anything.”
Me: “Yeah. You’re right.”

We exchanged a few pleasantries. Then she got to the topic at hand.
PD: “Kimberly, I’ve been reviewing your evaluations and feedback from peers and students.”

I sat taller and braced myself against the back of the seat. Swallowing hard, I did my best to drown out the Voice. It seemed to speak louder than anyone else in the room.
Voice: “Told you. The jig is up.”

I pushed my sweaty palms down on the seat cushion and tried to look relaxed. Except I wasn’t.

My head was filled with so much noise that it drowned out everything else.

PD: “So what do you think?”
Me: “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”
PD: “After speaking with our entire team, I’d like to invite you to stay on an additional year with us as Chief Resident.”

Wait, huh?

Me: “Is this a joke?”
PD: *laughter*
I wish I could say I was kidding. I was not.

Turns out it wasn’t a joke. And that it was the polar opposite of what I’d feared.

I started crying.

Okay, ugly crying, actually. My PD looked part touched, part really perplexed.
Part of it was gratitude. But a lot of it was nervous relief.

I eventually said yes. And the minute I did, the Voice re-upped on ammo and came back with a vengeance.

Voice: “Girl, they picked you because someone else said no. You’ll be the chief who failed boards.”

I loved that year. But I hated it, too. Because the #impostersyndrome just wouldn’t let me be great.


Also I saw very few role models like me back then which reinforced that negative thinking.

Were my PD and Chair supportive? Yes. But it wasn’t enough.

I know it sounds super cliché but it’s so true:

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Which stems from times when you simply couldn’t be what they wouldn’t let you be—which made it impossible or rare to see.

Does that even make sense?
So here I am some 25 years later. A full Professor with cool stuff on her CV and a national reputation.
But what I heard in my head back then still tries to creeps in.


“You’re only here because they needed someone Black.”


“You’re not competent. You’re charming.“

“You were just memorable because you’re the only one like you.”


“Watch them shoot you out the sky. You better fall back or fly lower to the ground so they don’t see you, girl.”


“You STILL don’t know how to use vectors to read EKGs.” (I don’t.)
But here’s what’s different:

Now? I see myself more. On plenary stages and in classrooms. In journals and on hospital wards. On search committees, too.

And I know they see me, too.

The examples aren’t imaginary or remote. They are 3 dimensional and real.

Which matters.
And this? This is a motivator to keep swinging. Swinging for me and for someone else hearing those same voices.

My own voice is getting louder, too. And now? On most days my voice is bigger and stronger than that of the imposter bully.

Damn right.

“Sis! You have worked hard! You try! Your brain thinks of good ideas and you make good use of them! You are brave! You are resilient! You are highly competent and they chose YOU because YOU are the only YOU there is!”


“You belong. Sis! Yes YOU! YOU belong!”
And I say it until I hear that loudest of all.

Or at least, I try.

Look, man. Imposter Syndrome is more than just a bothersome individual issue. It’s a threat and an assaulter of potential. A ruthless thief in the night that often robs the world blind.
And not only do individuals lose, the world loses, too.

And this? This is yet another case for diversity. Because no, you can’t be what you can’t see. But you know what else?

For anyone to see me, I need permission to see me first.

Yeah. 👊🏽

#webelong #impostersyndrome
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