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Unmasking Your Potential: Defeating Imposter Syndrome in Underserved Communities

Imposter syndrome, that nagging feeling of inadequacy and self-doubt despite evident accomplishments, can be particularly challenging when working with underserved children and their caregivers. In such roles, the weight of responsibility to make a meaningful impact can often intensify feelings of unworthiness or incompetence. However, recognizing and addressing imposter syndrome is essential for us to serve the communities we work in effectively. Now, I am no expert however, I have been a victim of imposter syndrome myself and I have had to unpack my issues and leave them at the door. I would like to break down what I have learned regarding understanding imposter syndrome in this context and offer strategies to overcome it. Hopefully, this will empower librarians and library workers to make a real difference in the lives of those they serve.

Understanding Imposter Syndrome:

Imposter syndrome manifests when individuals doubt their abilities and fear being exposed as frauds, despite evidence of their competence and accomplishments. In the context of working with underserved communities, this syndrome can be amplified by various factors:

1. Socioeconomic Disparities: We may feel inadequate when confronted with the complex challenges faced by underserved children and their caregivers, especially if they come from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

2. Cultural and Linguistic Differences: Language barriers and cultural nuances can intensify feelings of not belonging or understanding, contributing to imposter syndrome.

3. Systemic Inequities: Recognizing the systemic barriers that perpetuate inequalities can lead to a sense of powerlessness in the face of seemingly undefeatable obstacles.

Strategies for Overcoming Imposter Syndrome:

Empowering oneself to overcome imposter syndrome is crucial for effectively serving underserved communities. Here are some strategies to navigate and conquer these feelings:

1. Acknowledge and Normalize: Recognize that imposter syndrome is common, especially in roles involving social impact. Normalizing these feelings reduces their power and brings about openness to addressing them.

2. Focus on Impact: Shift focus from personal insecurities to the positive impact. Celebrate small victories and remind yourself of the meaningful difference being made in the lives of underserved children and their caregivers.

3. Continuous Learning and Growth: Embrace a growth mindset by actively seeking learning and skill development opportunities. Recognize that no one has all the answers and that continuous growth is a journey, not a destination.

4. Seek Support and Community: Surround yourself with a supportive network of colleagues, mentors, and peers who understand the unique challenges of serving underserved communities. Sharing experiences and seeking advice can provide validation and perspective.

5. Self-Compassion: Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially in moments of self-doubt. Remember that mistakes are opportunities for growth, not reflections of incompetence.

Imposter Syndrome can be a tough barrier to librarians and library workers dedicated to serving underserved communities, but it’s a hurdle that can be overcome. By understanding the root causes of imposter syndrome and implementing strategies to overcome it, we can empower ourselves to make a meaningful impact in the communities we serve. By acknowledging our worth, embracing continuous learning, seeking support, and practicing self-compassion, we can navigate imposter syndrome and fulfill our roles with confidence and authenticity. Together, we can work towards creating a more equitable and inclusive space for all who visit our libraries.


Georgette Spratling is the Library Manager & Youth Services Librarian at the North Miami Public Library in North Miami, Fl. She is a mother of 2 daughters, an HBCU Alum (Florida A & M University), and a lover of all things science fiction and fantasy.  When she is not helping teens in the library to become a better version of themselves, you can find her traveling the globe and making memories with her friends and family.

Photo courtesy of Georgette Spratling

4 comments

  1. Michelle

    I recently listened to Reshma Saujani’s Smith College Commencement Address about this and think it was empowering and brought some light to something that isn’t really a syndrome.
    She states:
    “It’s never really been about whether we’re qualified enough, or smart enough, or prepared enough,” said Saujani—the first Indian American woman to run for U.S. Congress. “Instead, it’s always been about the political, the financial, the cultural barriers that are designed to keep us out of those rooms in the first place.”

    I think it’s worth a listen:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoHDDgeQtlc&ab_channel=SmithCollege

    1. Georgette Spratling-Leon

      Thank you for this. 🙂

  2. Sarah Jo Zaharako

    Thank you for acknowledging this very real challenge and offering such insightful advice. This blog resonates deeply!

    1. Georgette Spratling-Leon

      It took some time for me to feel motivated to address this issue because I initially believed it was isolated to my experience. However, upon hearing others share their similar struggles, I realized the importance of bringing it to the attention of the library community.

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