BE THE FIRST: PEOPLE OF COLOUR & IMPOSTER SYNDROME

By Caroline Flanagan

From the outside looking in, Caroline Flanagan’s life seems blessed. A wildly successful former lawyer and now an in-demand international speaker, she seems to have it all. But despite her success, Flanagan’s spent her life as an outsider looking in, wondering how to thrive as a black woman in a white world. And in this book she captures the harsh reality of professional life for people of colour and how it can result in a unique form of imposter syndrome.

That sense of isolation and exclusion felt by anyone who is first to reach a certain professional level is something author Flanagan describes very movingly. But also the impact of overt racism. Used to hearing “You’re actually really nice for a black person” from friends and nicknames like ‘Lady of the Jungle’ from her own teachers, in spite of growing up in poverty she excelled academically, studying law at Cambridge. The experience has put her in the unique position of being an outsider in an elite world and being able to advise others struggling with ‘being the first’.

So… How do you thrive if there’s no one who looks like or has the same experience as you – do everything to fit in or let your ‘difference’ be your calling card? Flanagan’s advice applies if you are the first person of colour to get a seat at the table, the first woman on an all-male team, the first working class employee to enter an elite world, the first openly LGBTQ staffer to work in a particular profession… By creating your very own Imposter Speech, a summary of your unique personal qualities and experiences that make you unique. It’s a really powerful tool that you can draw on whenever a confidence boost is needed.

As the mum of mixed race sons I was profoundly touched by this book, as it really describes the internal struggle of anyone who feels like an outsider and offers great advice on how to succeed and stop feeling powerless when the odds are against you. It’s a book that will change lives.

Marina Gask