Have you ever felt like you’re not really bi, even though you swear it to be true? Have you felt like you’re putting on a front, you’re lying to yourself, “faking it until you make it,” or are just calling yourself “bi” to get attention?
If so, it sounds like you’ve got a case of Imposter Syndrome. But don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The term “Imposter Syndrome” or the “Imposter Phenomenon” was coined by Clance and Imes in 1978. It was originally in reference to women who were newly a part of the workforce across several fields, and since this was originally a “man’s domain," they often invalidated themselves, regardless of how successful they were. As Clance and Imes define it, it’s an “internal sense of intellectual phoniness." It’s a feeling of inauthenticity or assuming you have a false sense of self.
Imposter Syndrome often causes or coincides with depression and anxiety. You may feel down in the dumps for thinking you’re a fraud, or you may have nervousness or discomfort with an urgency to fit in and feel like you truly belong.
Unfortunately, this can all be a part of the bi experience. There is so much backlash we get from the media and even within our own communities or families. There are several negative stereotypes, such as “all bis are hypersexual” or “all bis are unfaithful,” that you might start to question and second guess yourself if you don’t align with these misconceptions.
Even positive or comical stereotypes can be detrimental if you feel like they don’t apply to you. You might think to yourself, “I hear that bis wear cuffed jeans and Vans, but I don’t wear those things. So am I not really bi? Should I start dressing like that?" or “Everyone says bis do finger guns and peace signs and they all sit weird. But I don’t make gestures, and I sit the regular way. So I guess I’m not bi then?"
These might seem trivial or absurd, but they can occur and affect us in ways that start damaging our self-esteem. We often hear negative attitudes that others have of us or see distasteful depictions of our identities in TV shows and start to internalize them. Hearing biphobic remarks like “being bisexual is just a phase" or “bisexuality is just a pit stop before you turn gay” are dismissive and gaslight our experiences as well as how we view ourselves. And the cost of that is often Imposter Syndrome, where we start to believe the biphobia and doubt our very own existence.
It’s enough to have everyone around us lack trust in our identity. It’s even worse when we lose trust in ourselves.
The Imposter Phenomenon can be fu"further amplified if you’re a man, when it’s frequently inferred that “men can’t be bisexual," if you’re non-binary or transgender, or if you’re BIPOC, where discrimination against LGBTI is highly ingrained and prevalent. The intersections of our marginalized identities always come with added levels of stigma. (I know, very fun! *sarcasm*)
But there’s hope! There are ways to cope with Imposter Syndrome, and some of these strategies are as follows:
If you know the saying “don’t believe everything you read or hear," then you know there’s truth to it! Having a natural sense of skepticism is healthy and appropriate. It can help you avoid internalizing the harmful stereotypes you see and hear in media or from unsupportive folks. Instead of questioning yourself, make a habit of questioning these types of messages and shift your focus onto finding accurate information.
We are all on a constant journey of self-discovery. We are works in progress, never fully finished. Therefore, acknowledge that you are still becoming the best version of yourself, learning more about your qualities every day, and accepting that it’s okay to sometimes have self-doubt. Our identities and self-perceptions are not fixed or static. They are continuously shifting and growing. Understanding that our ideas are not always right or truthful can be empowering. It is normal for us to experience Imposter Syndrome, but we don’t have to give it any credibility in dictating who we are.
Sometimes, having little reminders of our identities can be incredibly healing. Perhaps invest in a bi-pin or flag, get a cute t-shirt with the bi-colors or a funny bi slogan, or print out a poster with your favorite bi icon. All of these visual aids and keepsakes can work to ground you in your identity and validate you as a badass bi!
If you have a good bi friend, call them up and talk to them! Having others in our lives with shared experiences is very validating, and the connection will make you feel less alone. If you like meeting new people, consider joining bi social groups online so you can surround yourself with other like-minded individuals and form long-lasting bonds.
Realize that what you’re going through is common, and it’s not your fault. You can tell yourself positive affirmations where you own that you’re bi, or whenever you see someone you find attractive, have an inner dialogue where you acknowledge, “Yeah, that’s right, I’m a badass bi!” It may seem silly at first, but redirecting our thoughts works! If this isn’t your cup of tea, try out different phrases, or just practice self-care and self-love (which can be making a cup of tea!) whenever those feelings of doubt start to creep back in.
You are bi, you are beautiful, and you are not an imposter.