Does it show that I'm younger? Should I dress differently? Can I speak up and give my opinion in this conversation? Am I qualified for the job?
I've asked myself these questions frequently throughout my professional life, which began at the age of 18. The closer I got to decision-making spaces, or places of power, the more these questions grew. How to find one's place and influence collective social change processes when one is young and experiences insecurities or imposter syndrome?
Whether it is because of my age, my skin color, or my accent, I always anticipate how I will be perceived by my interlocutors. Further, these considerations become more pronounced by being at the intersection of several identity factors at once (age, gender, skin color, language, etc.).
Today I'm sharing my little "tricks" to counteract these parasitic thoughts. I hope they can inspire other youth that might recognize themselves in these situations
I regularly remind myself that if I have been brought into this decision-making space or job, it is because I have been deemed qualified enough to do it, that I am competent and that I belong at the table.
Learn to let go
I internalize and accept that the way I am perceived is beyond my control. I can't change who I am fundamentally. But I can take ownership of it. And believe me, it shows when one is confident and self-assured.
Be gentle with yourself
I am mindful of the burden of representation that can sometimes be placed on me: just because I represent a certain segment of the population, it doesn't mean that I speak for all the other people who look like me. That helps relieve pressure.
Embrace your uniqueness
On the other hand, I keep in mind that I was brought into this space to bring a particular perspective, which was missing around the table. Hence the importance, once again, of engaging in these conversations without doubting my legitimacy.
Even in socially conscious environments, no one is immune to comments or behaviors that can feel destabilizing or even aggressive. It is therefore important to talk about it in safe spaces, to take the time to take care of oneself and to surround oneself with people who are experiencing similar issues or with allies. The more spaces for expression and exchange we have, the more opportunities we have to make peace with certain experiences, to build a community of support.
We should not underestimate the burden associated with being a minority in a majority group, nor being a cycle breaker doing something for the first time. It takes a lot of courage and invisible work.
I hope that reading this will make some people feel understood, and others challenge themselves to make their workplaces healthier and more welcoming.
If you wish to share your experiences, your ways of dealing with these situations, or your questions, do not hesitate to write to email@example.com.
We look forward to hearing from you!