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Dr. Knatokie Ford and the Imposter Syndrome

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Dr. Knatokie Ford and the Imposter Syndrome

Photo Illustration by Kylea Pearson

Photo Illustration by Kylea Pearson

Photo Illustration by Kylea Pearson

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Founder and CEO of Fly Sci Enterprise, an education and media consulting organization, Dr. Knatokie Ford used storytelling to share how she curbs the “imposter syndrome” despite the identifying circumstances she has faced in the past at a lunch in honor of Black History Month, on Tuesday, Feb. 6.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Dr. Ford, who first contracted this syndrome transitioning from Clark Atlanta University—a historically black community, to Harvard Med, said she became “hyperaware” of being the only black person in class. This caused her to be deeply depressed and leave the university.

“Some initial research has found that (the imposter syndrome) affects high achieving women, indicating minorities of affirmative action,” Ford said. “They feel that they’re only here because they’re checking a box. Although, anyone can experience it. A white man can experience the imposter syndrome. Albert Einstein experienced it.”

After leaving Harvard, Ford wanted to distance herself from Biology. She moved to Hollywood, where she became a substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District.

While in LAUSD, Ford said she utilized storytelling to help others that came from a community similar to hers. She realized that if someone who had a “great, strong track record” suffered from imposter syndrome, then what about an impressionable, young girl in elementary school.

After watching “Akeelah and the Bee”, further implementing her influence on developing young minds, a quote by Marianne Williamson prompted Ford to go back to Harvard: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”

Ford has often seen her adversity fuel her curiosity. Despite her family’s financial situations, her parents implemented “circumstance being the attitude of control” and the importance of education. Through this, she saw education as the “ticket to a better life.”

Ford was then hired into President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Tech, the AAAS, where she and others gave the president advice on the the domain of science and technology. From this, she formed the Image of STEM Project, to advocate for diversity in the STEM field. Eighty percent of fasting growing jobs require math or science skills. Women make up 49.6 percent of the world’s population but they only make up 28 percent of the S&E workforce, as indicated in the NSF S&E Indicators 2018.

Ford asked her audience, “Do you ever have the sense that you have fooled others into overestimating your abilities?” Out of the 77 people participated, 22 answered, “Frequently,” 44 answered, “Sometimes,” 9 people answered, “Rarely,” and 2 people answered, “Never.”

“I do feel like I have experienced the imposter syndrome. As an older student, I [have] felt pressure to fit in and the things I like are old.” said Daniel Cervantes, a student in attendance. “Another example is that my family wanted me to major in what they thought was good for me and I acted like I liked it.”

Ford sees imposter syndrome as “a journey, not a destination,” and does not feel like she has fully recovered from it, but she now knows how to control it. According to Ford, it is not a passive process and she urges people to be mindful of the thoughts they keep, to know when to ask for help and to do things that they are good at to “feed the soul.” She urges people to “fake it til you become it”, and that body language influences how people feel.

Zane Chang, a Respiratory Care student at the event, hopes to graduate in Spring 2020. His future goal is to work in hospice and end-of-life care. Chang shared his opinion about why he believes people are at times reluctant to be vocal about the syndrome.

“I think it’s what we were doing in the poll, we all try to act like we’ve met other people’s expectations,” Chang said. “We just try to push it aside because we’re in denial.”

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Dr. Knatokie Ford and the Imposter Syndrome