Have you ever felt like a fraud? Like at any moment someonewill figure you out and the jig will be up, and you’ll be forced back into yourparent’s basement with an old tattered pillow case thrown at you and nothing tobring you comfort except for the bag of Doritos you’re clutching. When you getto a place in your personal and/or your professional life where you are aself-sufficient, young adult one can often get those nagging feelings ofnot-deserving what you’ve worked for and there’s a name for it! It’s calledimposter syndrome. And to give you a little clinical (maybe) Wikipedia definedsummary:
Imposter syndrome is described as a “psychological patternin which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistentinternalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.” First coined in 1978 bydoctors in psychology Pauline Clance and Suzanne A. Imes, the term ImposterSyndrome was studied in relation to over 150 high-achieving women, in whichthey all exhibited countless external qualifications in their respective fieldshowever they lacked the internal acknowledgement of their accomplishments. Idon’t think its any surprise that these un-warranted feelings of inadequacy aremost common among women.
I, for one get those feelings of doubt, insecurity, andun-deservingness all the time. Not necessarily in my current job-sector butwhen I think about trying for more or something better, or even in my personallife-like I will sometimes think I somehow voodoo tricked my husband intomarrying me—which lets be honest that’s not a thing, right?
I want to switch gears for a second and tell a story about a woman who had the opposite problem—she threw on a black turtleneck, started talking like a man, and DECIDED she was the next Steve Jobs.
Okay, so what the hell am I talking about?
I just finished listening to a podcast called the “TheDropout” which tells the story of one Elizabeth Holmes, a Stanford dropout whostarted her own tech company at 19 years old with nothing more than a loftyidea and just a few high-powered,wealthy investors who believed in her idea and (her) whole-heartedly. Holmesbuilt a medical-tech company whose prized product was going to change the wayblood/lab tests were done, there fore changing the medical world for thebetter. Her company, called Theranos, was going to change the World withElizabeth at the helm. In 2015 at the height of her career she was named Forbes magazine’s youngest, andwealthiest self-made female billionaires with a company who’s valuation wasestimated at about 9 billion dollars. What happened next was a blow to themedial community, Holmes, and worst off the many investors who took her wordand idea at face value and shoveled their millions into what became the biggestlie and fraud scandal since Bernie Madoff. Elizabeth Holmes’s ultimate failurethough IMO is to the young women who looked up to her as a hero of the times, aleader in an industry that is majority male-driven. She was thrust into famewith her face and accomplishments in sexy magazine articles, and Ted talks,with top political and professional influencers praising her like James Mattis,Bill Clinton, George Schultz (to name a few). She was the hero we wanted butnot the one that we deserved, because a year after the youngest/wealthiestself-made title, Forbes revised hernet worth to 0 dollars and Fortune namedher one of the “World’s most Disappointing Leaders.”
Why? Because she was an imposter, a phony, a fraud, thecompany she built as a 19 year old Stanford dropout was a farce, and no-onerealized it as it continued to run unscathed for over a decade.
We need more women in leadership positions. This is not an uncommon topic of conversation among contemporaries. I’m not going to bore you with statistics but the men to women ratio of power/leadership positions are, well, pretty lame considering women make up a slightly higher majority of overall population, it logically follows that we deserve representation that reflects that. SO why then are the women that are most talked about, either A. Completely rallied against and criticized publicly so much that we get tired of seeing their faces or names mentioned at all ie: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jameela Jamil or B. End up being the person that gives some credence to anti-woman leader rhetoric ie: Elizabeth Holmes.
The way women are portrayed, and held publicly and loudly to a higher standard is to blame in part for the internalized doubt that we experience with imposter syndrome. As a woman in a position that gives them a voice, power, and influence, you are not allowed to make mistakes, misspeak, be ugly, be too pretty. While Elizabeth Holmes is actually a real-life fraud not just someone who feels like one, there are actual women making their mark on medical, tech, and other industries that should be applauded and more well-known.
When we see someone like Kylie Jenner who was just named theworlds youngest, self-made female billionaire by Forbes which is an amazing accomplishment, society cant help butwant to diminish her feats as nothing more than a girl with a wealthyupbringing getting things that she doesn’t deserve. I mean we made a manPresident who built a company (with a small million dollar loan) into a billiondollar corporation. So why are Jenner’s accomplishments worth any less respect?
I can sit here all day and complain about the way weperceive women’s capabilities and the way the media plays on the way they lookeither for or against them, as if physical attributes dictate the worthiness oftheir accomplishments. But that’s not a new issue, it’s tired and true. WithInstagram and Youtube influencers, we see a rise of young women being championsof their crafts (another rabbit-hole I plan to go down and write about soon) buton a larger-more serious scale I would like to see the shift in power equalize.
If you were paying attention, Holmes was the face ofinnovation and a champion to women for years before her unveiling…who then willbe a real heroine of our time? Will society even allow for it?
For now, I will just sit here in my cozy home in myChristmas flannels with my adoring pets and continue to have to remind myselfthat I am deserving of anything I work for.