How do you rank yourself on the imposter syndrome spectrum? I am certain we all consider ourselves imposters to a degree. A few of us are constantly battling with our imposter insecurities, while some of us only have to deal with them at the witching hour of 3AM when self-doubts raise their ugly heads. Even if we can keep our anxieties at bay, we worry that they will appear at the worst possible moment and there, for all the world to see and snicker at, will be the truth – we aren’t legit, we ain’t got the chops we claim to have.
At Imagine, we believe speaking out and taking a risk is necessary in order for women in male-dominated workplaces to climb the leadership ladder. It is logical to suppose that the imposter syndrome will intervene as you consider this next step. In fact, it may be the imposter syndrome that is holding you back from becoming more visible at your workplace. While your male colleagues are speaking up right and left, you are hesitating, wondering if you dare expose yourself to a deeply held belief that you are an imposter. Maybe, but there is another angle to think about…
Lessons Learned from Romy and Michele
There is a message about the imposter syndrome in one of my favorite guilty-pleasures: Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. True to its title, this is a comic romp about two dim-witted friends and their misadventures at their ten-year high school reunion. In a misguided desire to impress, they concoct illustrious careers for themselves as the inventors of Post-it Notes. Or as Romy says to Michele, “Well, I invented them, but you thought of making them yellow.” This novel approach to surviving a high school reunion takes the imposter syndrome by the throat and throttles it.
Romy and Michele have started to believe their own story and are amazed when their lie is so easily debunked. But never down for long, they realize that, while, claiming to have invented Post-It Notes is a no go, in fact, they are much happier by simply accepting who they are: fun loving, accepting of their limitations (not that they realize they have any…), and irrepressibly happy to dance with kookie abandon, fold scarves and encourage others.
High School Reunion is a wacky comedy, a vehicle for Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino to show off their substantial comedy chops. It gives a light-hearted lesson on how to avoid misery, even of the simplest, most superficial kind, through self-acceptance and a willingness to shrug off rejection.
Here are some awesome words of wisdom from Michele: “Romy, can I tell you the truth? I never knew that we weren’t that great in high school. I mean, we always had so much fun together… I thought high school was a blast. And until you told me that our lives weren’t good enough, I thought everything since high school was a blast. I think we should go back out there as ourselves and just have fun as we always do. The hell with everyone else!”
My belief is, that whether you are a ten on the imposter scale or a one, you will have to talk yourself out of paralysis of imposter fear and back into the game at some point in your professional career. Saying to hell with everyone else is not going to solve your problems, long term. Still when the world is getting you down sometimes folding scarves is a fine and worthwhile activity.
It is possible to over react against the impostor syndrome and claim more credit than you deserve. Don’t sacrifice your well-being and peace of mind on the altar of getting ahead. The imposter syndrome can kill your risk taking, but taking a risk beyond your measure will kill your soul. Listen carefully to that inner voice. Weigh the truth of what it is saying and decide if any of those doubts have a basis in truth. And above all be true to yourself and adjust your risk-taking accordingly. I’m in favor of shutting up the imposter syndrome forever by understanding your true limits and getting rid the lies told by that nasty, self-defeating voice. Let’s fold some scarfs!
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