We’ve all heard the term impostor syndrome. It was a buzz word a few years ago and still clings to the wall of every women’s studies lecture hall. But what is it? Basically, it’s the fibromyalgia of workplace dynamics – it primarily happens to women and if you’ve never experienced it, you don’t really believe it exists. Well for my fellow early career girls, here are a ten ways to tell you have impostor syndrome inspired by my journey thus far.
How to tell if you have impostor syndrome
#1 You’ve accepted you have to pay your dues.
Wrong. A #girlboss rips those dues in half and returns to sender.
#2 You’ve accepted more work for the same or less money.
#3 You qualify your statements.
Before making a declarative statement or expressing a strong opinion, you tend to start with “maybe it’s me, but…” or “I could be wrong, but…” Stop butting out of your own life. Stop doing that. Now.
#4 You find yourself apologizing for your strong beliefs.
Similar to #3, you find yourself saying things such as “sorry, but that’s how I feel.” Who are you even apologizing too. The men don’t care. And the women should know better. Learn from the younger millennials #sorrynotsorry.
#5 You thought you had to get an advanced degree to supplement your experience.
Wrong, the men at my job are constantly getting promoted with minimal qualifications from no-name online school. Their male presence, posturing, confidence-despite-mediocrity, and thinking they deserve their jobs is enough. Try that. Don’t worry, if you already earned your M.B.A., completed Six Sigma, or some other nonsense leadership certification before applying for a leadership role, I fell for that trick too. They fooled all of us, I have the debt to prove it.
#6 You’re afraid to negotiate your salary.
This isn’t entirely your fault. You’ve probably tried to negotiate your salary in the past only to be turned down by that WOMAN in HR! It hurts all of us. Now, you think if you ask for more money, they’ll get someone to replace you for being ungrateful for the favor of your being employed.
#7 You thought you were better at being a mom.
After having your first child, with no training and experience, you thought you were better at being a mom than the job you paid thousands of dollars and gave years of your life to learn how to do. That’s B.S. That’s the impostor syndrome talking. You’re good at your job, you just don’t get paid in hugs and warm fuzzies. Go back to work!
#8 You find yourself redefining accepted terms to preempt criticism.
You find yourself making up words and redefining regular vocabulary words to avoid criticism and ridicule because the foremen before you like to police you. You say things like FIRE-my way or lean-FIRE or fat-FIRE. Stop hyphenating stuff. If you are financially independent of course it’s on your own terms, you don’t need to overstate it.
#9 You announce your privilege.
Men don’t do that. They are very sure they got to where they are solely because of their perfect choices, nothing else – Maslow’s hierarchy and lack of equitable opportunities, be darned!
#10 Someone has openly tried to gaslight you.
You know when you ask a question after a presentation and the presenter doesn’t have the answer so they pretend your question doesn’t make sense or worse they provide a mansplanation for a question you didn’t ask? This has happened to me more than once. Next thing you know, you’re not asking any more questions. Don’t shrink back, persist.