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.
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.