Life Beat im­poster syn­drome for good

Af­ter drop­ping out of univer­sity, Dee­sha Dyer, 40, worked her way from hip-hop re­porter to for­mer pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s White House so­cial sec­re­tary, with plenty of jobs in be­tween.

Glamour (South Africa) - - Contents -

iwent to univer­sity at 17 but left be­cause I was fail­ing and couldn’t af­ford it. I got a sec­re­tary job back home, and while it wasn’t my dream job, I also worked on projects that fed my in­ter­est in so­cial work and wrote for a friend’s hip-hop web­site to sat­isfy my cre­ative side.

My ad­vice If your job isn’t your pas­sion, look for other op­por­tu­ni­ties – even vol­un­teer­ing – that feel like who you are. Vi­su­alise

I even­tu­ally en­rolled into a lo­cal col­lege. When Barack Obama was run­ning, I put a photo of him on my desk and joked, “I’m go­ing to work for him!” Then I saw an ad for a White House in­tern­ship and thought, ‘Can I do this?’ I wrote down ev­ery­thing I’d been through and ac­com­plished – an evic­tion, go­ing back to school – and re­alised, ‘I got this.’

My ad­vice List the things you did when you thought you couldn’t do them; you’ll be amazed. And don’t stress about whether you’re ‘qual­i­fied’ for a job – show your skills and go for it.

Ask for help

I got the in­tern­ship, and af­ter it ended, the White House emailed about a po­si­tion in the sched­ul­ing depart­ment. The im­pos­tor syn­drome I felt was real even af­ter I got the job. I didn’t go to the right school or dress the right way – I shop at thrift stores. But I made sure my work was al­ways on point, so the ex­tras didn’t mat­ter.

When I be­came so­cial sec­re­tary, I was still hard on my­self. The White House had never seen some­one like me in the role – I’m a black woman from a bro­ken home with a nose ring. I wasn’t com­pletely con­fi­dent, and I got mad at my­self for not know­ing things I hadn’t been ex­posed to. I doubted my­self, but I couldn’t let that stop me from ask­ing for help if I didn’t know some­thing. The pres­i­dent also poured pos­i­tiv­ity into me and made me feel com­fort­able. Af­ter my team and I nailed three big events within a six-day span, I didn’t care what any­one said about me any­more.

My ad­vice Iden­tify what you’re great at, trust your team and things will fall into place. Be­lieve in your­self

While plan­ning the Pope’s 2015 visit to the White House, I said, “I want black peo­ple to sing for the Pope.” I hired a lo­cal black church choir and saw the im­por­tance of bring­ing my­self to the job. I’ve gone on to be­come a speaker and event con­sul­tant, and started a foun­da­tion for girls, Be Girl World ( be­girl­world.com).

Over the years, I strug­gled to feel wor­thy in my roles, but the ul­ti­mate les­son I took away is that those ex­ter­nal voices are al­ways go­ing to make you feel like you’ll never suc­ceed in ful­fill­ing your dreams or that you’re un­de­serv­ing. Si­lence them. If I think those things about my­self, I’d never move for­ward. I can be Dee­sha the var­sity dropout and still suc­ceed.

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