Damn You Imposter Syndrome!

cecily crownby Cecily Rodriguez

I wish I could tell you it was the result of a well thought out PR strategy – it wasn’t. I wish I could tell you it was something that had been in the works for a while – it wasn’t. It was a surprise. It shouldn’t have been, but it was.

I’m a well educated, fully employed, professor and parent who is a contributing member of society. I run a business AND do my own manicures (mostly at middle school basketball games) so I’m a serious boss. With 20+ years of experience under my belt, it shouldn’t be a surprise that someone would want my professional opinion about my industry, but it was.

Last week @BfloBusinessFirst reached out to me and asked if we could do a Q&A on HR trends. My first thought was:

  1. A) “Well, of course he wants to ask me!”
  2. “Interesting opportunity that I’ve earned with my 20+ years in the industry.”
  3. “That’s weird. I wonder why he wants to ask me?”

If you guessed A or B, you’re probably a man. If you guessed C, then you’re of course right and also probably a woman.

If you’re one of those amazing women who guessed A or B, keep reading for informational purposes but, this blog probably won’t resonate much with you. Lucky.

To the other 3,811,345,141 (and counting) of us women, you feel me on this. We have all the makings of a confident person – the degrees, certifications, decades of experience, awards, Jesus himself as a reference, @MichelleObama as our BFF (she doesn’t know it, but she is) and on and on. But even this far into succeeding at life, we worry we’ll be outed as a fraud. It’s called imposter syndrome and in case you’re blissfully unaware:

Psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud. Despite having adequate external evidence of accomplishments, they call their success luck, good timing, and dismiss it as other’s believing they are better, more intelligent and more competent than they actually are.

Yep.

Not sure you have imposter syndrome? Text your closest friend(s) and ask them if you’re good at __________ (your job, parenting, PTA’ing, teaching, lobbying, writing, etc.) whatever you spend a lot of time doing. If their reaction is something like “Are you serious? WTF? I’m gonna slap you if you ever ask me this again.” First, I like your friends. Second, you have imposter syndrome.

Still not sure? Imagine someone asks if they can get your thoughts on trends in the industry you have worked in for 20+ YEARS and your first thought is, “Me? You want to talk to me? Why?” You have imposter syndrome.

Despite my misguided doubt, I said yes to the Q&A and asked for the questions ahead of time so I could prepare. He sent a few. They were ALL about me and my business (clue #1 – missed it).

Even though ALL the questions were about me, I assumed this was just for background – because ya’ know, a career journalist can’t find this online – and that he probably just wanted to determine the credibility of my responses against responses he would get from others he interviewed (BTW, he never said anything about interviewing others. Clue #2 – missed it).

During our call, he asked how I came to Buffalo, started my business, what my skill-sets are, why clients choose to work with me, and on and on. He only asked one question about my thoughts on industry trends. ONE. Afterward, I thought, “Hopefully, I gave him at least one good quote he can use.” Yes, seriously.

Then he called back and told me he needed a photo. “Why do you need my photo?” (clue #3 – STILL missing it). This patient, and I’m sure, utterly confused gentleman proceeded to tell me the article was about me, just me (yes, I asked again) and thus, he needed a picture of me, just me. He was sending a photographer.

Speechless. Stunned. Shocked.

After calling my salon for an emergency appointment, I texted a few friends to say, “Can you believe this?” and yes, they could because that’s how imposter syndrome works. It blinds us to our own accomplishments and what we deserve but it never blinds us to all of this in our circle of strong, funny, brave, intelligent tribe of women. We see in them what we can’t see in ourselves. We know exactly why they would be hired, promoted, elected, awarded, honored, and interviewed and they know the same about us.

Our tribe knows we deserve it.

The reality is, I’m probably never going to fully shake my imposter syndrome and spending time and energy overanalyzing the why and when and blah-blah-blah…Nope. I think instead I’ll continue to surround myself with a tribe of champions who roll their eyes when I doubt myself, who want to smack me when I question my ability, who yell at me in ALL CAPS over text, and who laugh hysterically at how ridiculous I’m being. But who also push me, dress me, prep me, promote me, and love me so that even if I don’t always know I deserve it, it’ll just be our little secret.

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