I suffer from Imposter Syndrome. If you don’t know what that is, here’s the definition, from Wikipedia:
Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
I didn’t exactly know what my issue was until my mom bought me a book on it. As awareness is the first step, I have worked hard to overcome my feelings of being undeserving, and instead move toward a place of thankfulness and gratitude. While the internal battle is a constant, but slowly fading one, there are other external factors that I feel have contributed to my feelings of feeling out of my element. Here’s the first one.
The Sweetie Phenomenon
“You don’t have to watch that, you know,” said the random stranger came up to me while I was on the treadmill at the gym. “You can change the channel right here.” He reached up to change the channel on my personal TV before I stopped him.
“I changed it to football,” I answered. “I love that the Chiefs are winning this year.”
“Did this dude really think I didn’t want to watch football because I’m a girl?”
This was my inner monologue as the dude slunk away. Before you say I’m being too sensitive, I know that because I was a women’s studies minor in college, I am dialed into the way people treat me because I’m a woman. But just because I recognize it, it doesn’t mean I’m being too sensitive. These are the type of scenarios women experience every day.
“So you need your tire rods and ball joints replaced. They are too loose,” He glanced at my wedding ring. “If your husband wants to call us to talk about it, here’s my card.” The auto repair manager handed me the business card with a gentle look in his eye, like he was trying to explain that the Easter bunny isn’t real to a group of 6th graders.
Believe or not, this was the second time he has said that to me (my fault, I should have learned the first time). “My husband doesn’t make decisions about my property,” was all I could quip as the other mechanic watched in stunned silence at the awkwardness unfolding before him. “I’ll be taking my squeaky ball joints somewhere else.”
I was pretty proud of myself for that parting sentence.
I’m not asking for special treatment because I’m a woman. I’m just asking to be treated like a PERSON. Someone who runs her own shit, who knows how to change a TV channel and what to do about her own damn car. I’m not a delicate creature. I’m a lumbering gal who puts solid-core doors back on hinges, cleans entire garages, and can pick up dead animals, all in one fail swoop.
Besides regularly experiencing situations like these, I have begun realizing just how altered my thought process is because I struggle not to be seen as a bitch or “mean.” It makes me wonder how life would be different if women weren’t afraid of the blowback from how they react, both from men and women.
Second Guessing Everything: A Female Conundrum
Our gender issues are also our own, which we do to ourselves and eachother. My friend Stephanie IMed me a while ago, asking for advice on how to ask a coworker for something that Stephanie had asked repeatedly for, but hadn’t gotten yet. She needed it for a project. We talked through various email drafts and things she could say that weren’t mean but also assertive and let the coworker know she meant business.
After a few rounds, I stopped. “Would we be worrying about this if we were guys?” I suddenly asked. She didn’t answer right away, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing: No. If I were my husband (a brutally honest man who possibly the only husband on earth that will actually tell you when you look fat in something), I would type out my request, possibly cc the joint supervisor, and expect the needed items to be on my desk within the day. Harrison wouldn’t be re-reading the email after he sent it, wondering if the included reminder of when he initially asked for the items sounded “rude.” Yet, this is a scenario myself (and seemingly millions of other women) have done almost daily.
The Obsession With Being Liked
Re-thinking everything is a thought process that comes naturally (to me, at least). It didn’t seem weird to obsess over the fact that a friend of mine didn’t text me back after I told her I was upset she didn’t show up to our planned lunch. By the time she answered with an apology, I was already so wracked with guilt that I potentially pissed her off that I forgot why I had felt so mad about it in the first place. I was ready to smooth everything over and make it okay, even though it was pretty shitty she stood me up.
The desire by women to be liked by everyone on the entire planet goes into this. It is a vicious cycle that also feeds into what I call the “Sweetie Syndrome”– the societal norm that women are gentle spirits who need to be coddled and guided. In order to be liked, we put down our own accomplishments or lifestyle to make us seem more like the peers in our current social situation. We commiserate with others’ problems even though we are actually pretty awesome.
A perfect example:
I was with a new group of girlfriends, of which I only knew one girl beforehand. During our 4 hour outing, I heard more gossip about these women’s personal lives than I ever thought I would have to hear. One said she hated when her husband asks for sex. Another hated that she did her husband’s laundry and watched the kids, and he didn’t “do anything.” A third said she hated her job and everyone she had to work with.
The entire time, I felt this disgusting urge to say something about my husband. I wanted these girls to like me (why, I don’t know, since they weren’t an especially positive and motivated bunch to be around.) Except I didn’t really have a nasty scenario in which was husband was awful to me.
He does his own laundry, even mops sometimes, and will take out the dogs when I ask. Instead of trying to throw in my own scenario about a crappy job or husband (of which I had neither, since I love both my work and my husband), I stayed silent, secretly making eyes at my friend about how awful this all was. She blinked back in commiseration. Since then, she understands when I’m “busy” when she invites me to something with them. Do all women need to vent sometimes? Sure. But do women need to vent about their sex lives or terrible jobs in front of mere acquaintances? Why not do something about it instead?
So where am I going with all this?
Men AND women discriminate against women. They think they (and other women) aren’t capable of doing both the great things and the little things, and I want that to stop. I want to be able to not be called “Hun” on the phone with the cable company and I want to not have to crack a terrible grin when a stranger tells me to “smile! You look prettier when you smile.”
How do we inspire change? First, stop treating yourself like crap. For me, it’s remembering all the late nights I’ve spent working my ass off to get where I am today.
Second, for me and how I relate to other women, it’s expecting more of myself and of them. It’s not worrying about being a bitch just because I call someone on their crappiness.
It’s a long process, but I hope that you will join me.
Images via Shutterstock.